Apple iTunes Store launches in 56 countries

Apple's iTunes 11 Apple

Just days after releasing a new version of iTunes, Apple has announced an expansion of its iTunes Store into Russia and dozens of other countries, nearly doubling the number of countries in which it has a presence.

In addition to Russia, the popular music platform has landed in Turkey, India, South Africa, and 52 other countries, Apple announced today. The addition of the 56 countries brings the total number of countries with iTunes Store access to 119.

With the launch, Apple touted the selection of local and international music tailored to its new audiences.

"The iTunes Store features local artists including Elka in Russia, Sezen Aksu in Turkey, AR Rahman in India, and Zahara in South Africa, international artists including The Beatles, Taylor Swift and Coldplay, and world-renowned classical musicians including Lang Lang, Yo Yo Ma and Yuja Wang," the company said in a statement.

Russia, in particular, will prove one of Apple's greatest challenges in the music sector. While the home of Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, and Pussy Riot has several legitimate download services, is also home to rampant piracy. The Intellectual Property Alliance, an organization dedicated to eliminating piracy, has placed Russia on its "priority watch list" as a major pirate.

Despite the challenges posed by piracy, Russia could be a revenue goldmine for Apple -- if it can persuade Russians to purchase rather than pirate.

After a monthlong delay, Apple last week released iTunes 11. The latest version of its popular music software features a visual redesign that takes a cue or two from Apple's iOS software, with a focus on large album covers that can expand to show you songs -- both in your library, and other tracks from Apple's iTunes Music Store.

This article originally appeared on CNET under the headline "iTunes Store opens in Russia, 55 other countries in hefty expansion."

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    Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. Before joining CNET News in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers. E-mail Steven.