Is Europe a country? The question puzzled gameshow contestant Kellie Pickler. And now even the European Commission seems confused. Apple has appeased the pangovernmental body by offering Britons the same price for iTunes downloads as the Continentals. But the original complaint remains unaddressed: Why can't Europeans shop at any national iTunes store, since the region is ostensibly one open market?
Contrary to what we had been led to believe, the fact that the same content is not available in all EU countries is not the result of restricted business practices between Apple and the record companies, but of the restricting copyright legislation.
So it's the government's fault after all. Glad we cleared that up! The European Commission is eager to make companies do its bidding, but getting fractious nation-states to update their laws appears to be beyond its ken.
Some will view Apple's statement that it "will reconsider its continuing relationship in the UK with any record label that does not lower its wholesale prices in the U.K. to the pan-European level within six months," as bullying. But this is the reality: If anyone has the clout to force changes in the music industry and its regulatory regime, it's not the European Commission. It's Steve Jobs, savior of iPod users everywhere.