iTunes movie rentals in Europe on a slow boat to China

It may be exceptionally easy to use, but rolling out Apple's iTunes movie rental service to Europe will be no easy task. This according to a piece just published by the The New York Times. Despite known collectively as Europe, the EU's 27 member countries remain a patchwork of convoluted regulatory fragments related to digital media. For example, in The Netherlands, it remains uniquely and ambiguously legal to download, but not upload, copyrighted material. Release schedules also vary widely across Europe -- sometimes releasing the same day as in the US or months later. Notably for Apple, a distributor of content must secure individual licenses to films in every country they wish to do business. No easy task given Apple's rental agreements cover all the major and many smaller studios. This lack of coherence makes a pan-European iTunes rental agreement daunting, to say the least. Fortunately, commissioner Vivian Reding of the European Commission, plans to make a proposal mid-year that would streamline digital commerce efforts across European borders. Remember, Viv is the force responsible for stomping out the EU's ridiculous roaming rates. In other words, we can expect more than just lip-service in the months ahead. Unfortunately, given Apple's history of trouble with the EU over pan-European iTunes pricing and DRM, you can bet they'll tread the EU waters carefully (read: slowly) as they attempt to go live.