If you have purchased something from the iTunes store, and seen that it said that it was the “non EU version”, and wondered what that meant, well, you’re not alone. We recently set out to determine just why some iTunes music has this “non EU version” designation, and here is what we found.
From a US iTunes Account
From an EU iTunes Account
To be honest, what we found was, not a whole lot. So, we wrote to our contacts at Apple and got..even more of a whole lot of nothing.
So, here is our best guess.
Back in 2004, Apple was finally able to open up iTunes to EU residents. Much more recently – just last year, in fact – the European Copyright Commission made moves to reduce the balkanization of European digital music rights. Previously, licensing and royalties for each country in Europe were controlled by that individual country, making sales of digital music between EU countres complicated, if not downright difficult.
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Explained Jacqui Cheng of Ars Technica, back then, “Unlike the US, online music in Europe is typically only sold through one country’s stores at a time – this is despite the EU’s efforts to effectively eliminate the borders of its 27-country membership when it comes to products and services. As such, if you’re in Spain and want to buy a song from France’s iTunes Store, you can’t – the store blocks you from making the purchase because you aren’t in France. This has led to companies like Apple rolling out individual music stores for each European country with a large enough market, but the fragmentation has caused nothing but headaches for end users who just want to listen to their favorite music.”
What this highlights is that even in the best of scenarios, tracking distribution and royalties is an exacting task, and at worst its a nightmare.
Having an EU-wide royalty structure makes things much easier for Apple, but – they still have to track EU royalties, and U.S. royalties, and keep them separate. Which also means that if there are more than one version of a particular song – say, one that is for EU distribution, and one that is for U.S. distribution, they have to track that too.
And that is our best deconstruction of why your iTunes purchase may include the phrase “non EU version”. If we hear anything different (or confirming) from our sources, we will let you know!
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