iTunes Store not heading to Asia. Reason: Piracy.

Kitty on iTunes
Let’s see here, Cat Power, Cat Stevens, Purrs… Ooo, Meatloaf!” by Lazy~Lightning

UPDATE: This blog post was written one year ago on September 2006. I now believe the Apple iTunes store may be opening in Singapore in 2008, but as with news of this nature, please take it with a grain of salt.

It’s unfortunate but true. Despite the exciting news that come with iTunes 7, it looks like Singapore isn’t going to get their own iTunes store anytime soon. Apple’s reason? Rampant piracy in most of Asia. Australia and Japan are the only Pan-Pacific countries that have their own iTunes stores. You can read the full story from Straits Times below (via Otterman on ME@N).

Frankly speaking, I think this is really more of an appearance issue. It’s a fact that piracy is everywhere (even in America), but what makes most Asian countries more susceptible to the impression of piracy is that you’ll find digital media being ripped and sold on the streets. It’s interesting because a lot piracy actually happens online (e.g. via p2p file sharing, bittorrent) and it’s the more developed countries that can engage in this activity because of their high bandwidth internet connections.

For the third-world countries, their household internet connectivity might not be as fast or even stable, and as such you’ll see alternative channels of piracy happening, mostly as organized piracy rings copying and selling copyright content on recordable media (CD-Rs/DVD-Rs). Given a choice, it’s pretty obvious that people wouldn’t want to pay for pirated content. This piracy issue only serves to worsen the digital divide, and I think some form of activism needed to fix this global problem.

The Straits Times, Sep 14, 2006
Apple rules out iPod movies for Asia

HONG KONG – Apple Computer’s new iTunes movie service will not be available in much of Asia with no prospect of its roll-out in the near future, a company spokesman said.

The California company launched the latest addition to its hugely successful Music Store online download service in the United States this week.

It is offering scores of movies old and new owned by the Disney corporation.

Due to fears of rampant piracy in Asia and a tangle over licensing agreements with record and movie companies, the world’s fastest growing digital market has been shut out.

‘We cannot comment on the specifics but it is true that iTunes is not available in Asia,’ Apple’s marketing director for Asia, Tony Li said. ‘That goes for music and movies.’

In the Asia-Pacific region, iTunes is available only in Australia and Japan, the world’s second largest consumer of music after the United States.

Even in Japan, some labels have refused to allow their songs onto the service.

The new movie download service will allow US users to buy current movies for US$12.99 (S$20.50) in the first week of release and US$14.99 after through the iTunes programme. Archived movies will sell for US$9.99.

So far only movies from Disney – including films from Pixar, Touchstone, and Miramax studios – are available. Other companies are in negotiation to provide content.

The plan was rolled out as Apple launched its remodelled iPod range.

Through iTunes, Apple has about 70 per cent of the music download market.
— AFP

51 thoughts on “iTunes Store not heading to Asia. Reason: Piracy.

  1. You can always purchase the itunes prepaid card to buy song off those countries you want. ie. use itunes japan prepaid card to buy songs off itunes japan. I dont think the major concern is piracy, but is simply whether the benefit of having another itunes stores exceed the cost. Both to apple and the major labels.

  2. I don’t think cost is the main concern, after all, rolling out another templatised store which shares the content is probably just a few clicks away.

    If anybody from Applie reads this :

    C’mon roll out the Asian stores man! There are genuine consumers who would appreciate paying for content, they have already plonked down good money for the hardware. Now we need the software to complete the experience. If a pirate truly wanted to buy songs off iTunes, I’m sure they are resourceful enough to get overseas connections anyway.

    And if you are worried about kids distributing their purchases, i’m sure the US kids are just as eager to “share” their songs. It can’t just be an Asian problem.

  3. I could be wrong on this as I do not have access to the mangement reports(internal) on their overheads/costing. Ideally, every itunes stores is consider a “department” and they each have overheads allocated to them.

    Essentially, having an addition itunes store front is not just rolling out another templatised store. They will need to establised local department/office, employ staffs, get into contacts with record companies, load up with the content the local market will purchased, royalties fees, taxation, license, handling refunds, bank charges, etc.

    That is for apple perspective, to the record companies, they will be talking about the projected ncrease in market share. Is it worthy to just sell 1 song as opposed to bundling 1 whole cd and selling at a higher price. Which option bring in a greater contribution margin?

    I am pretty sure it is not about piracy, as I have mention you can purchased song from itunes stores regardless whether they have it in your country. Just get the prepaid card and pay for your purchases and the replication part is up to your imagination. Pretty easy, nothing technical, even with the smartest technology to lock it within your compute., As long as you can output the audio signal, you are half way there.

  4. Not so simple dude, non-US folks can’t buy the gift cards as they are bought via the iTunes store and u can only register if u have a US credit card and address.

    Tried using Paypal as a payment mechanism but they verify with Paypal the country you’re from too and shut u out.

    Do give a shout if u have a work-around…

  5. I access the music store in China via a Canadian credit card — which sucks as the Canuck music store does not offer televisiion programs yet. That means I have to buy all of my shows on pirated DVD or through torrent — I would spend a couple of bucks on each BSG episode (and do get them via Amazon), but having no music store access to these encourages me to use pirate channels.

  6. The situation in Latin America is the same. Actually, if you look at the list of countries in which an iTunes Store is available, you’ll quickly notice they’re all first world nations. Although piracy is rampant in the third world, that can’t possibly be the reason for the unavailability of an iTunes Store. If anything, not offering an iTunes Store only promotes piracy because it justifies its use: If I can’t buy the song from iTunes, why not just download from the net? Besides, Amazon doesn’t exclude selling CDS to the third world because of piracy. It simply doesn’t make any sense. But it’s a huge mistake. Plenty of us third worlders have the money and the desire to use the iTunes Store. Why don’t they want our business?

  7. I think I might be driven to piracy via p2p software by the non-existence of an iTunes store in Singapore.

    I want to buy a few songs (e.g. Tony Orlando’s “Tie a Yellow Ribbon”) but I can’t find them on the legal mp3-selling websites. I have just found them via iTunes, but am unable to buy because Singapore is not listed as a supported nation.

    I am so upset now. Even the Yahoo mp3 software requires the credit card to be registered in USA. How on earth can I buy those songs? I have been looking for a legal download for weeks.

    Back when the mp3 boom first started, I too joined in the mass download movement as an immature youth. Now I have grown wiser and understand the rationale behind copyrights.
    I have a valid credit card and a truthful intent to pay for mp3 downloads, but I am being deterred by the senseless generalization that Asians are willing pirates.

    Record companies, you aren’t giving me a choice. You are pushing me towards illegal means because I have no other way of obtaining the music I want. If cigarettes were banned, it would be no wonder finding underground smoking dens.

  8. That’s a completely ridiculous reason for not having an iTunes store in asian countries.

    They are fighting piracy by “not” allowing people to legitimately buy music online? How does that at all persuade people not to download music illegally? In fact that’s probably the root cause.

    If someone is intent on piracy, your crappy drm-laden 128 kilobits/s song is not going sway them. But for people like us constantly looking for a legitimate and accessible avenue to actually buy the digital songs, a service like this will definitely bring us on-board.

    In any case, it is not like the songs sold through itunes will be pirated. The quality is lousy and the drm is a bitch. So if some actually wants to pirate a song, they would have downloaded illegally in the first place. Not buy it then jump through hoops to duplicate it.

  9. It is like preventing them from buying legal music and movies online. This move will not prevent piracy, as due to the unavailability of music and movies, they might resort to illegal download sites… Apple would lose out, these people might go for other online stores and buy other brand of Mp3 players since they couldn’t get on iTunes… A bad move by Apple.. especially since Asia is the largest continent in the world… Just a comment by me…

  10. The one reason I refuse to get an iPod video is that you cannot get any contents from iTunes Store. Without the contents, there just isn’t enough value proposition. And I think those who bought iPod videos are idiots; buy a Dvd an then have it rip into iPod video??? Duh…

    Apple is a racist and I’ve decided to boycott all their products. It ridiculous to have someone dictate what I can or cannot buy; and when I bought Dvd from overseas during my travel, to have that same entity tell me that I cannot play it because it’s from another region.

    This it racisim in its full manifestation!

  11. WeeChong: I know what you mean about the content being the key value proposition. On the topic of DVD playback, most DVD players are region coded, so you can’t just blame Apple for it. There is also no connection between Apple and Race, since all countries, from the Middle-east to China, have Apple sales and support. Did you have a particular bad experience playing back DVDs on your Mac? There are solutions for all OSes, whether Mac, PC or Linux and the best tool for DVD playback is VLC player.

  12. Well, Apple if not, song and movie producers are right about being concerned with the rampant piracy in Asia.

    Here’s a few hundred acres of government sanctioned piracy proof:
    http://www.japanprobe.com/?p=1678

    Even the Japs are disgusted by it… Btw, no wonder Jap is the only asia country which has an iTunes shop.

    Jealous? well, gotta work on the society mindset first.

  13. Piracy? Man iTunes Music store’s files already comes with protection not even letting you to play it on anything other than their own iPod.
    I think piracy is not the reason for Apple not opening its ITMS in Asian countries
    Ankit, India

  14. The last time i heard from the sales guy at Apple Store Funan, was in May 07 telling me confidently dat all the itunes piracy shit in Asia. He was kind of proud to show off his Apple knowledge to me.

    Greenhorn, I am using Apple products since 12. And i don need another salesman or forum to come telling me dat itunes store will not come to Singapore. Unless the forum owner invented DRM.

    Besides, non drm music is already on sale on itunes. Newpaper has confirmed dat Itunes store will be coming.

    So my 2 cents worth: Fire all sales staff dat doesnt know what is going on.

  15. i’ve also read about iTunes coming to sg at the end of 2007…but does anyone know which month is it gonna launch? i mean it’s like coming to the end of the year and i havent heard any news about it so far…(ok, mayb i’m being abit impatient here, but pls bear wif mi)

    if there’s anyone who could shed some light on this, pls do…thanks 🙂

  16. I was hoping for an announcement saying that iTunes store will be open in Singapore during the recent announcement. Nah-uh…

    I wonder if it’s really gonna come at the end of this year…

  17. I have written to iTunes store support on this,too….trying my little way to lobby to get it open for Singapore customer. C’mon, Apple USA ! Give us online contents to enjoy on the best personal computer/ipod in the world.

  18. I am beginning to shun the IPod. My IPod mini recently broke down and this has inspired me adopt a motto :
    NO ITUNES MUSIC STORE, NO REASON TO GET AN IPOD

  19. 🙁 aarrrr i want to Buy song online 🙁
    i waste so much time trying to buy it -.- till the end part it dun allow me to buy from itunes US sad~~

    btw i found ur blog by typing this “how to buy song from itunes”

  20. I have an iPod and tried so hard to get an itunes account but fails everytime. Why can’t they just accept paypal as it is without validating which country I live? …I don’t support piracy but you guys@iTunes made me no choice!

  21. Check out ituneshop.net, they sell itunes gift certs that can be redeemed from anywhere …. *drum roll* …. at Cost Price!

    I wonder how they make money …

  22. People in third world countries wouldn’t pay for pirate content given a choice?

    Piracy is free or very cheap, a lot of people in third world countries work really hard every day to have enough to EAT.

    Put it this way, if you had 3 dollars a day, would you spend them on an original CD or in food?

  23. Plain and simple… The record companies barely have a clue on who or what is in Asia.. They throw CD’s over the fence hoping for some revenue, knowing in their minds that revenue will be poor due to piracy. While we can all argue about this, the perception is there…

    The moment anyone approaches them on digital distribution in Asia they have a fit…. PIRACY is their same old tired response.

    I agree with the earlier poster that systematically, piracy is a problem in the US more so than in some Asian countries like Singapore.

  24. If itunes were available there would be less piracy.

    People in Asia are rich & tech savvy…. Apple could make a bomb over here.

    So why not open? Is it licensing bureaucracy?

  25. Has any announcement been made that Apple is not going to set up an iTunes Store in Singapore ? I hope no. Steve Jobs would be making the Keynote speech at Macworld 2008 on 15th Jan 2008, hopefully, at that time, Apple would announce Singapore as an addition to its iTunes Music Store family.

  26. Foxshade: That’s a very racist comment for you to say so. Even if you have access to the iTunes store you might want to think why others don’t.

    Try having a large-scale feast in front of some poor starving people and watch their reaction. That’s how we feel here now.

  27. People in Asia only do such things because it is difficult to find somewhere to download legal music.
    I am sure if apple opens itunes in my country, singapore, or any where else, people will stop downloading illegal music and buy them legally.

  28. Still no access to the iTunes store in Latin America. I guess Limewire is our alternative to the iTunes store.

  29. It is already May 2008, and there is no sign of an iTunes store opening. It is really quite frustrating to be excluded from this exciting movement whereby users can purchase mp3s and videos off the internet. Here in Singapore, we don’t have much choices (if any). The major companies like Apple iTunes, Amazon Unbox, and Napster do not serve countries outside U.S. Why is this the case? Why are they making it so hard to purchase digital content for Asians? Is there no workaround?

  30. Hey all,

    I’m thinking about buying a Macbook. I’m British but I live in China and I have British bank accounts.

    I’d like to know if it is possible to buy music/rent movies etc through the iTunes store using a British debit/credit card?

    Sorry if this has already been explored above but I’m not terribly computery-minded and some of the jargon is confusing me.

    cheers guys

    Nicola

  31. Kel: I am not the one “having feast”. I live in Singapore, where not having iTunes store coming. I am drooling and envious seeing Japan has their iTunes store.

    I am disappointed, but if I were in apple’s shoe, looking at that situation globally, I would take the same step.

    It’s not about race, it’s about culture how people do things.

    Take any race who grows up outside their homeland. Their behaviour is totally different his brothers and sisters who grow up in homeland.

  32. I somehow doubt that Apple is not opening up music stores because of a fear of piracy- after all, illegal downloads are already widely and freely available on the Internet. I think it’s more that for smaller markets they’ve calculated that the resources needed to maintain a country-specific store doesn’t warrant the cost involved.

    Jeremys last blog post..Dawn Over San Francisco

  33. Dear All,

    today is the 29th of July 2008! The first post here is from September 2006. Almost 2 years have gone by and NOTHING!! No Itunes store in Singapore!!

    I agree with most of the comments here in particular with:
    – Apple is losing a bomb of money that will be made by creating Itunes stores in Asian countries
    – they are not doing so primarily due to “piracy fear”
    – America piracy (even per capita) is greater than in Singapore
    – Apple discriminates as you can check by the countries with Itunes stores (all first world)

    Ultimately, a great deal of hard-working people like myself cannot legally download songs due to poor company policy and decisions. No wonder piracy increases… I have an ipod video and can only watch a handful of crappy podcasts…

    See you in 2010 with an update after two years from now…

  34. I have skim read the above and it's the usual BS. Tell me why is there G-Tunes in Singapore, as service for the Creative range of MP3 players? Look who the largest share holder is in Creative (a Singapore company). Then you'll see the real reason for I-tunes store is not fully available in Singapore.

    Yes, since Singtel reached an agreement with Apple to get the lions share of the royalties for app's on the I-Phone a limited I-Tunes store is now available, but this is just for app's on the I-Phone with a Singtel subscription. So you can not get apple t.v. down here (Starhub have a very poor equivalent (again look at the share holders in Starhub to see why)) and heavens forbid we can actually get access to music that has not beed 'approved'!

    However, there is a solution. If you are not Singaporean then get a credit-card from your home country; you can then set up an account via that and use it globally (including Singapore). If you are Singaporean then sorry you're going to have to suffer the monopolistic hold all companies have on supply down here, remember you are a small country (albeit a very successful one), as the government had to give concessions to larger organizations to have the exclusive rights to sell things here in order to tempt them to a market which is not much bigger than a large town in other places (just look at who supplies your milk, razor blade or even deodorant – normally it only one company per product).

    Please stop insulting our intelligence and tell the the truth, being it's just business and I cannot see this changing in the near future.

  35. I have skim read the above and it's the usual BS. Tell me why is there G-Tunes in Singapore, as service for the Creative range of MP3 players? Look who the largest share holder is in Creative (a Singapore company). Then you'll see the real reason for I-tunes store is not fully available in Singapore.

    Yes, since Singtel reached an agreement with Apple to get the lions share of the royalties for app's on the I-Phone a limited I-Tunes store is now available, but this is just for app's on the I-Phone with a Singtel subscription. So you can not get apple t.v. down here (Starhub have a very poor equivalent (again look at the share holders in Starhub to see why)) and heavens forbid we can actually get access to music that has not beed 'approved'!

    However, there is a solution. If you are not Singaporean then get a credit-card from your home country; you can then set up an account via that and use it globally (including Singapore). If you are Singaporean then sorry you're going to have to suffer the monopolistic hold all companies have on supply down here, remember you are a small country (albeit a very successful one), as the government had to give concessions to larger organizations to have the exclusive rights to sell things here in order to tempt them to a market which is not much bigger than a large town in other places (just look at who supplies your milk, razor blade or even deodorant – normally it only one company per product).

    Please stop insulting our intelligence and tell the the truth, being it's just business and I cannot see this changing in the near future.

  36. I have skim read the above and it's the usual BS. Tell me why is there G-Tunes in Singapore, as service for the Creative range of MP3 players? Look who the largest share holder is in Creative (a Singapore company). Then you'll see the real reason for I-tunes store is not fully available in Singapore.

    Yes, since Singtel reached an agreement with Apple to get the lions share of the royalties for app's on the I-Phone a limited I-Tunes store is now available, but this is just for app's on the I-Phone with a Singtel subscription. So you can not get apple t.v. down here (Starhub have a very poor equivalent (again look at the share holders in Starhub to see why)) and heavens forbid we can actually get access to music that has not beed 'approved'!

    However, there is a solution. If you are not Singaporean then get a credit-card from your home country; you can then set up an account via that and use it globally (including Singapore). If you are Singaporean then sorry you're going to have to suffer the monopolistic hold all companies have on supply down here, remember you are a small country (albeit a very successful one), as the government had to give concessions to larger organizations to have the exclusive rights to sell things here in order to tempt them to a market which is not much bigger than a large town in other places (just look at who supplies your milk, razor blade or even deodorant – normally it only one company per product).

    Please stop insulting our intelligence and tell the the truth, being it's just business and I cannot see this changing in the near future.

  37. Yeah damn Apple. I just signed up with M1 and got my 3GS but can't even listen to a single podcast or song except those from radio.

  38. Since they day I got the iphone 1 month ago from M1 I know Apple suck ! I used to do group sms to my clients. Now I can't even do that with my state of the art mobile iphone. I have done a detailed internet search and know for a fact that unless you hack the damn phone with Jailbreak you won't be able to find a group sms application. People in US have been waiting from it since 2006 too that year after year till today they are still waiting. I have just decided to hack it today and if it breakdown I will just throw it into the nearest drain in Singapore.

  39. Hong kong doesn't have iTunes average Internet speed here is 100Mbps goes all the way to 1000Mbps. Which I believe is cheaper than what US ISP are offering and we don't have bandwidth cap. I really don't understand why no iTunes walk in the streets in hk 6 of 10 people got an iPhone.

  40. This is gay. Fuckin piracy? I'd sure as hell stop making people walk the plank if there's music store in singaporean iTunes! Come on, Piracy?! Piracy levels in Singapore is probably way less lower than those in U.S.A.

  41. I stumbled upon this after googling on why Singapore iTunes don't provide music content and after reading some comments (and complaints), here's my two cents.

    Firstly, I'm currently based in China and absolutely agree with you guys that music is basically free here. You can download them from numerous sources and the music database is huge. (in fact Google was one of such provider some time ago, only for China market)

    Secondly, its sad to see people squirming about Apple not providing such services, etc etc. Com'on we don't have to beg for it, remember we're the consumers, if they don't provide, its their loss as we'll find our alternatives. I'm sure there's numerous sites online whereby you can buy music. Download and drag drop into your iTunes, sync to your iPods, do what you want.

    But remember, just don't cry out to Apple.

  42. not only piracy!! censorship !!! if Singapore didn't have the mda hounding us and butchering all our movies up as well as companies selling cheap quality DVD's we wouldn't have that much piracy!!! Come On if Singapore did have DVD's with code 1 standards I am sure there would be lesser piracy!! with no censorship we get better options and wouldn't be thinking about stuff like” why would I wanna pay that price for a movie that I am not getting in whole?”

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