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Crossing borders with the iTunes Store

Kirk McElhearn | March 14, 2013
While Apple's iTunes Store, App Store and Mac App Store are international and available in most countries around the world, the stores aren't as global as they ought to be. Though the Internet has no borders, Apple's stores certainly do. A lapsed New Yorker, I've lived in France for nearly 30 years, and I'm planning to move to England in a couple of months. I contacted Apple to find out what I could do to transfer my French iTunes Store, App Store and Mac App Store accounts to the UK, and was very surprised at the answer I received.

While Apple's iTunes Store, App Store and Mac App Store are international and available in most countries around the world, the stores aren't as global as they ought to be. Though the Internet has no borders, Apple's stores certainly do. A lapsed New Yorker, I've lived in France for nearly 30 years, and I'm planning to move to England in a couple of months. I contacted Apple to find out what I could do to transfer my French iTunes Store, App Store and Mac App Store accounts to the UK, and was very surprised at the answer I received.

In short, I can transfer the accounts--the actual Apple ID I use--but any content I bought would be subject to national borders. In other words, leaving France means leaving behind all the apps and other DRM-laden content that I've purchased from Apple over the years.

Two things came to mind. First, why the heck would Apple do this? And second, does this policy mean that I've tossed a lot of money out the window? This doesn't apply to music without DRM (sold by the iTunes Store since 2009), which you can play anywhere, but it does apply to all other content Apple's digital stores sell: apps, movies, TV shows, books, and audiobooks.

If I compare with another major retailer of digital content--Amazon--the difference is striking. Amazon will move an account, along with any Kindle books purchased by that account, to another country. And if I had a Kindle Fire and had bought apps, I could also access them in the new country. (Amazon will even let me transfer my French Kindle account to their U.S. site.) But with Apple, this is not possible. The company says: "Content purchased from the iTunes Store is country-specific."

Not so appy

Let's start with apps. There is no logical reason to limit access to apps to the country where they were purchased. I've bought apps for my Macs and iOS devices from companies located in dozens of different countries; they simply use the App Store and Mac App Store as a marketplace. In addition, this means that those Apple apps that I linked to my Mac App Store account when I last bought a new Mac--the iLife apps--won't be eligible for updates, even though I can use the same Mac in any country I want.

Most developers would probably be surprised to learn about this. I asked my friend, and fellow Macworld contributor, Rob Griffiths of Many Tricks, who sells apps in the Mac App Store, what he thinks of this. He had no idea that such policy existed, and said, "If you pay for one of our apps, you should be able to use it in a colony on Mars if you can relocate there."

 

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