While we’re talking DRM, bless those progressive Vikings. Norway’s Consumer Ombudsman (whom I imagine wears a long, ornate robe and a thick beard — or something archaic and cool, since us Americans don’t get any ombudspeople, just a lot of corporate lobbyists) has pronounced iTunes/iPod FairPlay DRM illegal.

Apple DRM is illegal in Norway, says Ombudsman [OUT-LAW.com]

Now, you may have heard this news already. But what I find interesting is that it’s not the DRM that Norway doesn’t like: it’s the fact that you’re locked into playing songs you buy on Apple’s software and gadgets and nothing else, as we’ve observed earlier. Even with the dominance of the iPod, this is troubling. Look no further than AppleTV: after years of blocking iTunes Music Store music from competitive wireless audio and video devices, Apple gets a total monopoly on the market. That sure doesn’t seem fair, and it flies directly in the face of this quote from an Apple spokesperson to AP:

Apple hopes that European governments will encourage a competitive environment that lets innovation thrive, protects intellectual property and allows consumers to decide which products are successful.

Yes, indeed. Consumers should decide which products are successful — after Apple eliminates all consumer choices. Norway actually legally requires interoperability. (You know you’re not in America when…) And why not? Apple has built a technology that’s specifically designed to control what you do. Without it, those audio files would happily play wherever you wanted. Before you think it’s “bash Apple, praise Microsoft” time, it’s worth noting that Microsoft actually abandoned a platform that gave consumers at least a little choice (Windows PlaysForSure) for one with all the same problems as Apple’s, if not worse (Zune). Not that they’re selling Zunes in Norway.

As readers here have pointed out, the easy solution is not to buy music from iTunes. Countless independent music stores have online shops. You can buy DRM-free wax and plastic from brick-and-mortar record stores (which means you single kids can flirt with the cute boy/girl record clerks). And you can often buy direct from the artist. All of these options even let you load music into iTunes and iPod, so you can even stick with Apple’s products, if you like — or not. (I suggest dubbing to cassette.) I hope that artist-centric music sales ultimately win out, anyway. And 78s, tapes, 8-tracks, and CDs are starting to look more advanced all the time.

Oh, and I apologize to Norwegian readers for falling on a stereotype. It’s just that I find Vikings totally awesome. And they’re just one of many reasons to visit your truly awesome country.