The Apple and Sony corporations have launched a battle in Switzerland for control of the market for downloading music via the internet.
Charging SFr1.50 ($1.25) for one track, and from SFr14.50 for an entire album they have made the downloading of music legal.
Up to now, downloads have been possible from illegal free platforms, which the music industry has been trying to stamp out.
Launched in 2003, downloading music and paying for it has become a huge success in the United States and other parts of Europe.
Apple opened its iTunes Music Store (iTMS) in Switzerland on Tuesday, while Sony opened for business on Wednesday.
A communiqué said that the launch of iTMS in Switzerland coincided with the opening of such stores in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. On a worldwide scale, iTMS has a market share of 70 per cent.
With the arrival of Apple on the Swiss market, which had been scheduled earlier, the Swiss now have access to one and a half million song titles via iTMS.
Apple’s arrival comes almost two years after the iTMS shop launch in the US.
"We concentrated first on the big markets before becoming interested in Scandinavia and Switzerland," commented Apple spokeswoman Andrea Brack.
"Negotiations with the major players in the music industry took a lot of time," she added.
Competitor Sony is making 600,000 titles available on the Swiss version of its platform Sony Connect. It too has come on to the Swiss market later than expected.
Apart from big labels, Sony Connect is offering many independent and specialised niche labels, as well as Swiss acts, making it possible to use the full potential of the corporation’s MP3-Walkman, a communiqué said.
To try to prevent multiple, illegal copying of downloaded titles, the providers are working with data that is specially protected.
Up to now, the Swiss market has been dominated mainly by CityDisc, Microsoft and ExLibris.
According to Professor Ivan Cherpillod, a specialist in intellectual property rights at Lausanne University, it is not illegal to make downloads of music for private use.
"Article 19 of the federal law on copyright foresees no copyright for private use. Downloading music files for me, my family or my circle of friends is not illegal," Cherpillod comments.
But there is an ongoing debate on the subject in Switzerland.
"Opinions differ when it comes to the origin of the file. For some people, the non-application of copyright law does not cover a copy of the file which has been put illegally on the internet, in other words without the consent of the author or those who own the rights."
"But for the time being, there is no jurisprudence on the issue in Switzerland," he added.
Private individuals can also exchange music over so-called "peer to peer" software. With this system, there is no question of paying for the copyright on the music downloaded.
The major music industry players have gone to war against this because they consider it the main cause of the decline in CD sales over the past years.
They also argue that it has been detrimental to artistic creation by depriving artists of their income.
swissinfo with agencies
In April 2003, the iTMS shop sold 300,000 songs in its first week of operation. It reached the 100-million mark a year later.
Apple continues to have a 70% market share in the digital music market.
CityDisc was the first provider in Switzerland, offering 220,000 titles.
With Apple’s iTMS and Sony’s Connect, five providers are battling it out on the Swiss market, offering between 400,000 to one and a half million titles.
The Swiss market has until now been shared mainly by CityDisc, Microsoft and ExLibris.
CityDisc, which started operations on its Directmedia platform in September 2003, currently offers about 360,000 titles.
The Microsoft service has offered 400,000 titles since launching last November.
ExLibris, a subsidiary of Migros, opened its platform in January, also offering 400,000 titles.
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