It’s easy to take for granted how easy it’s become to download music files via iTunes these days. But for some countries, its not that simple. Countries such as Poland and Bulgaria still lack the ability to download song files on iTunes due to a complex European licensing system which precludes Apple from making a single blanket deal that would include all EU countries.
If Apple, however, were able to obtain licensing rights from publishers and royalty collecting societies on a broad multi-territorial basis, it would then be able to offer iTunes downloads to all of the 27 countries that currently make up the EU.
The specific reason why some European countries have access to iTunes while others still don’t was laid out in a recent European Commission report:
Apple observes that its iTunes store is not available in every EU country because many countries do not offer a large enough marketplace to justify the expense and effort required to sell in that country. Since it cannot obtain the rights in the sound recordings and the global repertoire of musical works on a pan-EU basis, iTunes has to examine the situation in each country individually to determine whether the benefits are likely to outweigh the costs of distributing content into that country.
These complex, and some might say convoluted, licensing laws are also the reason why Hulu videos are not available for overseas viewing.