Apple CEO Steve Jobs has posted an open message on the Apple website concerning digital music piracy and copy protection software.

Apple has long employed Digital Rights Management software, such as its own 'Fair Play' system, which ensures that music downloaded from Apple's iTunes website can only be played on iPods.

Mr Jobs claims that Apple's DRM system has been forced upon it by major record labels such as Universal, Sony BMG and EMI.

And today's open letter, entitled 'Thoughts on Music' appears intended to redirect the political and public ire at such copyright protection away from Apple towards the major music studios.

In the letter, Mr Jobs urged the major labels to 'stop mandating  Apple, Microsoft, Sony and other MP3 makers' to bind music sold at their online stores with their respective players to guard against rampant duplication.

By the end of 2006 iTunes had sold 22 songs per each iPod, the most popular version of which has the capacity to hold 1,000 songs.

Mr Jobs said this statistic proved that '97% of the music on the average iPod was not purchased from the iTunes store'. He claimed this showed that iPod users were 'clearly not locked into the iTunes store to acquire their music'.


France's parliament passed a law in June of last year that cracks down on online piracy and pressures Apple to open its popular iTunes Music Store to companies producing rival digital music players.

But after months of fierce lobbying by Apple, the law also contains a loophole that will allow the company to demand the right to maintain software blocks against competitors.

Other European countries are considering legislation guaranteeing inter-operability.

Apple's iTunes Music Store is the world's biggest digital music outlet and has sold more than 2 billion songs since its launch in 2003. Since 2000, sales of compact discs have fallen by 23%.

Despite the dominance of iTunes, it is estimated that 1 billion songs are swapped for free every month on file sharing networks.