Apple Computer has come under attack from leading European independent record companies for its licensing policy.

Apple Computer has come under attack from leading European independent record companies for its licensing policy.

Several indie labels have voiced concern that they find it difficult to license their repertoire to Apple's online music service iTunes Music Store.

London-based independent labels trade body Assn. of Independent Music (AIM) says the computer giant has constantly thwarted its member companies' efforts to use the platform for their artists, whereas content deals with competitors Napster and Sony Connect have run smoothly. "Attempts by U.K. labels to license their music to iTunes have repeatedly failed," says AIM in a statement.

Various indies, including London-based Domino Records and Ninja Tune, say they have been ignored by the service despite having signed a license weeks ago. Others including Chrysalis Music Group say Apple has not yet issued requested licensing paperwork.

AIM notes that Domino-signed Mercury Prize winners Franz Ferdinand and Eric Prydz, whose track "Call on Me" (Data) is the current No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart, are among the "thousands" of independent artists whose music remains unavailable on the market-leading download service.

Domino head Harry Martin says the British label's acts had been effectively shut out by the service. "It's simply bewildering that a company that is perceived as championing this new technology doesn't make it a priority to align itself with record labels in the independent sector that are championing new music. You would think we would be natural partners for each other," says Martin.

Jeremy Lascelles, CEO of Chrysalis Music division, added: "I find Apple's approach and attitude to the independents perplexing."

An Apple spokesman says negotiations would press ahead. "Although music from Domino and MoS is not currently live, we are working directly with them and hundreds of other labels to get their content live as quickly as possible."

Apple's iTunes Music Store went live simultaneously in the United Kingdom, Germany and France on June 15 with a content offering based largely on major-label repertoire. The independents had collectively held out over the terms offered by Apple.

About a month after launch, both parties agreed on a collective licensing framework deal which was intended to clear the path for independents to sign up content for the service. Influential London-based labels Beggars Group, Sanctuary Records Group and V2 were among the first to make use of the framework deal.

British consumer-rights watchdog Consumers Assn. last week contacted the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to investigate its claims that the iTunes Music Store was overcharging customers in the United Kingdom. The British government agency has yet to announced whether it will proceed with an investigation.