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iTunes Store extended to Russia, South Africa, India and 53 additional countries (updated)

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iTunes int
iTunes int

Apple is currently rolling out the iTunes Store across several countries including Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. The Verge has obtained direct evidence from a tipster confirming as much, with reports from Twitter indicating the store is also accessible — at least in some capacity — to those in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Lebanon. Content availability is likely to vary by region, as has been the case during previous international iTunes expansions. Earlier today, TechCrunch reported that Apple may be holding an iTunes-related event in Moscow tomorrow: if true, such an event would likely make the long-awaited arrival of Apple's digital storefront official.

Russia's music industry has experienced a sharp decline in recent years, falling from $191 million USD in 2007 to $76.6 million in 2011 according to MusicWeek. Digital piracy has become an significant obstacle in the country, with the RIAA claiming Russia's anti-piracy enforcement (pdf link) remains "deficient for most of the copyright industries." Yet Apple finally entering the market suggests the company is ready to tackle the problem head on. In particular, Apple's iTunes Match service could offer those with illegally-obtained music the chance to convert their library to an industry-blessed collection stored in the cloud — for a fee, of course.

Update: We've now heard from tipsters that the iTunes Store has gone live in India, as well. We'll keep you updated with news about any additional countries.

Update 2: And it's official. Apple says the store is now available in a total of 119 countries around the world, including Russia, Turkey, India, and South Africa.

Thanks, Sirish!