Late last week Amazon unveiled itâs new cloud based music service. What does this mean? First came the iPod in the digital music revolution. It allowed users to take physical CDs and places the music in a digital library that would reside on their computer which the user could then transfer to the iPod and take it anywhere. But the limitation is that you can only play your music on that particular device.
Now there is the cloud. Users will upload their music to an Amazon hosted locker, or Cloud Drive (unlimited for Amazon purchased music and free up to 5 gigabytes for music purchased elsewhere). Using an application called a Cloud Player, users will be able to access that music on any computer connected to the internet (for free). Users wanting to keep large quantities of music, video and other material in Amazonâs cloud will have to pay a fee.
However, record labels donât necessarily consider it fair use for a user to make copies for personal use. Music publishers like ASCAP and BMI also are not pleased with Amazonâs new service. The head of marketing for ASCAP worried that the Cloud Drive âis simply a way to avoid having to pay songwriters and composersâ¦ as well as artists.â
There has been a lot of speculation about the efforts of Google and Apple to come up with a way for consumers to easily access all of their music on all of their devices through a so called "cloud music service." But Amazon beat them to the punch early Friday, rolling out its own music and video storage locker in the cloud.
Amazon is no stranger to cloud storage: the company backs up the books that users of its Kindle e-readers purchase from Amazon, and consumers say they like being able to start reading a book on their computer and continue reading it on a tablet or a smart phone later.
Amazon sees another advantage to cloud based storage. Amazon Vice President Bill Carr says that when customers have easy access to their music, they tend to buy more. While that might seem to be a plus for the beleaguered music industry, the record labels have actively fought an earlier entry into the cloud storage game. In November 2007, 14 EMI-affiliated labels and music publishers filed a copyright infringement suit against MP3tunes.com, which continues to operate, doing basically what Amazon is proposing, pending a resolution of the case. The labels argue infringement because of a feature of MP3tunes that allows users to store "unauthorized" downloads in their lockers. MP3Tunes has countered that it's just storing music for its users.
Amazon seems to have taken up the same position. In an email, a company spokesperson wrote, "We do not need a license to store music in the Amazon Cloud Drive. The functionality of saving MP3s to a Cloud Drive is the same as if a customer were to save their music to an external hard drive or even iTunes."
Amazon may be in for a fight, but the push to the digital music cloud is just beginning: Google is reportedly field-testing its own cloud-based music service and the competition in this market is likely to be intense.