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Supreme Court rules against file-sharing services

In a unanimous decision today, the Supreme Court ruled that peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing services could be held responsible if their software was intended primarily to swap music and movies illegally.

“We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement,” Justice David Souter wrote in the majority opinion.

Earlier today, financial research firm Piper Jaffray said that Apple’s iTunes Music Store “would be the primary beneficiary

Report: Cingular to offer iTunes phone

Cingular is considering whether to sell Motorola’s long-awaited iTunes mobile phone, according to a Reuters report on Friday. “Motorola and Apple have been talking to Cingular about it using the iTunes phone,” a source told the news agency.

In further confirmation, RBC Capital analyst Mark Sue said in a research note this week that Apple and Cingular, the No. 1 U.S. carrier, were finalizing details on revenue sharing.

Cingular and Apple representatives declined comment, while a Motorola spokeswoman said the company is on schedule to ship the first iTunes phone in the third quarter. [via Mobile Tracker]

European iTunes Music Stores top 50 million songs

Apple today announced that more than 50 million songs have been purchased and downloaded from its European iTunes Music Stores in their first year of operation. Apple launched iTunes stores in the UK, France and Germany in June 2004, and now have them in 17 European countries including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

“We’re thrilled to have sold and delivered over 50 million songs in our first year

Apple hit with lawsuit over iTunes interface

Contois Music Technology has filed a lawsuit against Apple over the user interface of iTunes, according to an AppleInsider report. Contois alleges that Apple violated a patent it holds, and seeks damages and the ability to stop Apple from distributing iTunes as the application looks and behaves now.

“The suit, filed on June 13th in Vermont District Court, alleges that Apple’s iTunes software design infringes on Contois’ six-year old design patent (US Patent No. 5,864,868) entitled ‘Computer Control System and User Interface for Media Playing Devices.’ Contois is seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining Apple from further distributing its iTunes software in its current form. The company also asked the Court for an unspecified amount of monetary damages resulting from Apple’s ‘copying and willful infringement’ of its design patent as well as reimbursement of legal fees associated with the lawsuit.”

Apple, 7-Eleven launch Slurpee iTunes sweepstakes

imageApple and 7-Eleven have kicked off a new promotion to give away 8 million songs from the iTunes Music Store. According to the official rules, specially-marked 32 oz. Slurpee fountain cups at participating 7-Eleven locations will have a 12-digit alphanumeric code redeemable for one free song from the iTunes Music Store. It appears every cup is a winner.

Strangely, Apple said that the “Slurpee Summer Prize Fest” began on May 23, despite no word from the company or our readers in the more than two weeks since, hinting that these cups have yet to reach stores. The Slurpee sweepstakes, which should be noted is co-sponsored by Coca-Cola, ends on July 31, 2005. Apple said free song codes must be redeemed by August 31, 2005. The maximum number of valid codes per person that can be redeemed is 10 per day and 200 total during the promotion.

Report: iTunes Music Store coming to Japan in August

Apple will launch a version of its iTunes Music Store in Japan this August, a Japanese newspaper reported Tuesday. The Nihon Keizai business daily said that major Japanese record labels, including Columbia Music Entertainment, Avex Group Holdings and Toshiba-EMI, have agreed to provide songs for the service, but that Sony Music Entertainment has yet to agree on contract terms with Apple. The paper said Japanese users will be able to download songs for around 150 yen ($1.40).

European iTMS get Click&Buy option, affiliate program

Apple announced today that European iTunes Music Stores now accept Firstgate’s Click&Buy as a payment option. The third-party service lets customers purchase music via debit card, direct debits, invoice or bank transfer. The Click&Buy option will be available for all European countries except Switzerland.

Apple today also launched its iTunes Affiliate Program in Europe, which lets European users earn 4% commission on sales generated by direct links to the iTunes Music Store from a Web site or email. Affiliates that sign up for the program before June 30th will be automatically entered to win an iPod.

“We think giving our iTunes customers the option to use the Click&Buy payment option is going to be a hit,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of Applications. “And, with over 15,000 iTunes affiliates in the US, the introduction of our affiliate program to Europe will drive even more customers to the world’s best online music store, while providing affiliate Web sites a quick and easy way to generate commissions.”

Merrill Lynch offers possibilities for iTunes video

With the recent addition of video support in iTunes, Apple is in good shape to partner with record companies to sell music videos or to offer a subscription video service, according to one Wall Street analyst.

“The music industry doesn’t have an outlet to sell music videos and likely would cooperate with Apple,” Milunovich said in a research note obtained by iLounge. “In addition, Netflix said that given Apple’s recent hiring and lease of space, the company has designs on subscription video of some kind. And Apple has expressed interest in high definition video.”

Like many others, the analyst said the videos could hint at a video iPod. “Selling videos may be a precursor to a video iPod,” Milunovich said. “The new features within iTunes allow users to download full versions of Quicktime music videos. We previously speculated that iPod video capability for short clips could be available by Christmas.”

Podcast support coming to iTunes [updated]

At the D: All Things Digital executive conference on Sunday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs demonstrated new podcast features in the next version of iTunes (presumably 4.9). Jobs said the new version of iTunes will be released within the next 60 days.

“He was slightly dismissive of populist podcasting, describing it as ‘Wayne’s World for radio’, and celebrating the arrival of professional radio stations into the market, but nonetheless, he was very high on the podcasting phenomenon, and the excitement that millions of users have displayed about it,” reports O’Reilly. “In the Q&A, Jason Calacanis of Weblogs, Inc. asked if there was any possibility of using the iTunes music store for paid podcasting. Jobs replied that for the moment they were only considering it as free content, but that he was open to looking into it.”

Update: The Wall Street Journal has further details (paid subscription required): “That will go away in iTunes 4.9, which Mr. Jobs demonstrated for conference attendees and said would be available within the next 60 days. ITunes 4.9 will integrate free podcasts as a menu item, allowing users to listen to podcasts and subscribe to them, with new podcasts they subscribe to downloaded to their iPods when the devices are synched to an iTunes-enabled computer.”

Coldplay featured in new iTunes TV commercial

imageApple took advantage of Coldplay’s appearance on Saturday Night Live this week to air the first of what appears to be a new style of iTunes commercials.

The 30-second spot, which is a vast departure from the company’s cartoon-like silhouette ads, features Coldplay performing their new single “Speed of Sound” in order to promote the band’s new album, X&Y, on the iTunes Music Store. It is not clear whether the commercial was created from original footage or if it was taken from Coldplay’s music video for the song, which has yet to debut on the band’s website, MTV, or on iTunes. The commercial ends with “Coldplay’s new album. Plus exclusive tracks on iTunes.” followed by the Apple logo and “iTunes.com.”

Unsurprisingly, Apple is heavily promoting the much-anticipated X&Y on the iTunes Music Store. “Pre-order Coldplay’s X&Y now and enjoy two exclusive tracks when the album is available for download June 7 (you’ll receive an email confirming the album’s availability),” Apple says. “Pre-ordering the album is the only way to get the exclusive bonus tracks ‘Proof’ and ‘Things I Don’t Understand.’” It is not known if Apple’s Coldplay/iTunes commercial was a one time deal to utilize the band’s SNL appearance or if it was simply the first of several ads to come featuring other artists.

The ad has yet to be made available for viewing on Apple’s website as of this posting.

Apple support docs on iTunes 4.8 posted

Apple recently posted three new support documents for the latest version of iTunes. The first two show users of the application how to add and watch compatible videos. The third is for Mac OS X v10.4 Tiger users and shows them how to sync their contacts and calendars with iTunes.

The documents include: “iTunes 4.8: Adding videos to your library,” “iTunes 4.8: Watching videos,” and “Mac OS X 10.4: Use iTunes 4.8 or later for iPod syncing.”

Analyst: Apple could ‘flick the switch on subscriptions’

Merrill Lynch analyst Steven Milunovich said today that Yahoo’s low-priced subscription music service could cause Apple to offer a similar plan of its own through iTunes. “Apple could flick the switch on a subscription model,” Milunovich said in a research note obtained by iLounge. “Yahoo clearly is a problem for Real Networks and Napster, but will it hurt Apple? We do think Yahoo’s entry could cause Apple to offer iTunes as a subscription model later this year, especially if there is evidence of share loss.” He noted that subscriptions account for about 15% of the legal download market with iTunes holding over 70%.

Milunovich also said Apple is working to protect iPod profits. “Meanwhile, Apple isn’t standing still,” he said. “Industry observer Robert Cringely examined the new Tiger OS and found unused icons and support of the H.264 codec that hint at video capability on the iPod and an iTunes video store. Similarly, we have speculated that an iPod running video clips could be out for Christmas and that H.264 was important to future hi-def plans. Cringely also believes Tiger may have support for competing music formats, indicating that if iPod margins get squeezed Apple might license its software and switch to software-driven profits. That’s more of a stretch though Apple does appear to have learned from past mistakes.”

Four new European iTunes Music Stores open [updated]

imageAs widely expected, Apple has launched new versions of the iTunes Music Store for citizens of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. The new stores come hours after Apple quietly released iTunes 4.8, and can be accessed by clicking on the “Choose Store” link in the left navigation column of the iTunes Music Store.

Notably absent is the long-awaited Australian store, which appears to be delayed by a contract dispute with at least one record company.

Update: Apple has now sent out a press release announcing the four new stores. Of note, the company says that more than 400 million songs have now been purchased and downloaded worldwide, and that it will launch a promotion with UBS to give every Swiss citizen a free song as part of the new “UBS Generation” and “UBS Campus” packages. “UBS is offering song cards for music downloads in all of their branches, which can be used instead of a credit card to purchase tracks from the iTunes Music Store,” Apple says.

Apple releases iTunes 4.8 with video support [updated]

Apple has quietly released iTunes 4.8 for both Mac OS X and Windows. According to the brief release notes, version 4.8 includes “new Music Store features and support for transferring contacts and calendars from your computer to your iPod (requires Mac OS X version 10.4 on your computer).”

This update will presumably bring support for at least some of the previously mentioned new international iTunes Music Stores, including Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, Norwary, and Denmark. In fact, French iPod enthusiast site iPodGeneration is reporting that Apple will be holding a press conference tomorrow at Zurich to introduce the service in Switzerland.

iTunes 4.8 also adds new video features, including the ability to drag and drop movie clips from your computer into the iTunes Library for easy cataloging and organization. Clips appear with a new movie camera icon in your library; however, categories such as “album” and “composer” continue to be used for these files, and no new “videos” or “movies” genre has been added to accommodate them.

There is also a new “show video full screen” button that lets you easily watch full-screen movies that have been organized in your iTunes Library, as well as options to view movies in a separate smaller window, or within the main iTunes pane. When you “get info” on videos, they appear with a preview picture that can be resized to your liking. The video functionality does not appear to allow users to transfer videos to currently available iPods.

As stated in the release notes, users of Mac OS X v10.4 Tiger can now manage their contacts and calendar information right in iTunes instead of using iSync. Windows users will still need the help of a third-party utility to transfer contacts and calendars to their iPod. (See screenshots of the new video and contact/calendar features by clicking read more.)

Update: iTunes 4.8 also patches a security hole in the software. “The MPEG4 file parsing code in iTunes versions prior to 4.8 contains a buffer overflow vulnerability. Parsing a maliciously-crafted MPEG4 file could cause iTunes to terminate or potentially execute arbitrary code,” Apple says. “iTunes 4.8 addresses this issue by improving the validation checks used when loading MPEG4 files.”

Update #2: Several iLoungers report that Apple has made a select number of music videos available for download as bonuses to single or album purchases at the iTunes Music Store. For instance, those who buy Morcheeba’s The Antidote will get the video for the band’s “Wonders Never Cease” for free with the album. There does not currently appear to be any videos available for individual purchase.

Record company delays Australian iTMS launch

An agreement with one major record company is reportedly holding up the launch of the Australian iTunes Music Store, which was expected to debut last week alongside four new European stores.

“A source said yesterday Apple had planned to launch an Australian version of its popular online music store last Thursday, as widely touted, but the launch was thwarted by one unnamed major record company that refused to sign an agreement in time,” reports The Courier-Mail.

“The hurdle reportedly forced Apple to cancel radio advertisements ordered for the date, and it is expected to delay iTunes’s launch by days, or possibly weeks, as song and album prices and payments are negotiated with the holdout label,” the paper added.

Further confirmation for new international iTunes stores

All but confirming five new international iTunes Music Stores, Apple’s servers now host flag image icons for Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, Norwary, and Denmark.

image

As reported on Sunday, Apple is expected to launch new stores in these five countries this Thursday — the second anniversary of the iTunes Music Store.

Griffin ships AirClickUSB Remote

imageGriffin Technology is now shipping the AirClickUSB Remote for Mac and PC computers. The $39.99 device uses RF technology that allows you to control your computer from up to 60 ft. away from anywhere in your home or office.

The AirClickUSB enables you to wirelessly control several popular applications, including: iTunes, PowerPoint, and QuickTime. Griffin said future software updates will add support for additional applications.

The small remote control — which features play/pause, next track, previous track, volume up and volume down buttons — is identical to the AirClick for iPod remote and can be used to control either your iPod or your PC if you already own the iPod AirClick.

Report: New international iTunes Music Stores Thursday

Apple this week may use the second anniversary of the iTunes Music Store to launch new versions in Australia and a handful of European countries.

Actor/musician Russell Crowe told listeners to a radio station that an Australian iTunes Music Store would open on Thursday, April 28. Crowe said that the store would sell his new solo music offerings, and that songs would cost AUD$1.80 a track.

Meanwhile, German site Music.ch reports that Apple will also use Thursday to debut iTunes Music Stores in Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway.

Motorola CEO: iTunes mobile phone still coming

Motorola’s iTunes-compatible mobile phone will see the light of day in the next few months, the company’s chief executive, Ed Zander, said Wednesday. During Motorola’s first quarter financial conference call, Zander confirmed that the phone is still coming out despite questions that arose after the company cancelled the introduction of the phone at the CeBIT conference in March.

“There has been some speculation that Motorola might delay the launch of its music-playing mobile phone because of lack of enthusiasm among US network operators,” reports The Financial Times. “Zander sees innovative mobile phones, such as the sleek and successful Razr, as the key to competing with Nokia, the market leader.”

Report: Apple to launch iTMS in Japan by year-end

Apple plans to launch a version of its iTunes Music Store in Japan by the end of the year, according to the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, which cites Apple Japan’s representative director Yoshiaki Sakito.

“Apple previously held back from starting such operations due to problems such as the strict management of copyright ownership by Japanese record companies. But the rapid growth in the digital music market in Japan as well as a more open approach by record companies has made the move toward offering online music services possible.”

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