Is Amazon’s Cloud Player A Game Changer In The Music Industry?

Is Amazon’s Cloud Player a Game changer in the Music Industry?

“If music be the food of love, play on.”
– From Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare.

Last week, Amazon launched two new services – Cloud Drive and Cloud Player. While the first is a cloud-based storage facility, the second is a music player – available in a browser-based version and one for Android smart phones – that allows the user to stream any music files stored in the Cloud Drive to any compatible device or browser, even if the files themselves had not been synced there.

In order to encourage users to upload music to their Cloud Drives, Amazon automatically syncs all MP3 purchases from its stores to the user’s personal cloud storage. More importantly, Amazon does not consider purchased music stored in Cloud Drives against the 5GB free quote. The logic is easy to understand – irrespective of the number of people who purchase (and save) Lady Gaga’s Poker Face, Amazon needs to physically store only one copy of the song.

While cloud “lockers” allowing users to store personal content on the cloud is nothing new (See: Box.net, Amazon Cloud Drive – The Future Of Cloud Storage And Sharing… ), a music retailer allowing purchased content to be stored in the cloud and downloaded multiple times certainly is. In fact, combining streaming music and online storage may prove to be a game changer in the music industry.

In order to answer the inevitable “Why”, consider things from the music companies’ point of view. Now, these companies are fiercely protective of their properties, and have spent millions in litigation to prevent unauthorized sharing of music, a la Napster. With Amazon’s new service, they are unsure whether their rights are being violated, unsure whether it would lead to what they have been trying to prevent for a long time – unauthorized sharing.

Now, Amazon’s current license agreements with music companies do not allow a customer of its music store to download the same file more than once. However, with this service, while they are not technically downloading the file multiple times from the online store, they can do so easily from their “lockers” on Cloud Drive, with able support from Cloud Player.

A similar service had been discussed with regards to videos in an earlier article (See: Unlikely Lessons For The Cloud Computing Industry). Here too, there was some vagueness about copyright infringement. That is why the company providing online storage only allowed only its own content to be uploaded. The important differentiating point here is that Amazon does not make its own content, but sells it under license. However, it has the strong defense that it’s just allowing people to listen to content they have purchased legally.

Consequently, Amazon seems not to be worried by the legal lacunae surrounding the situation, nor does it feel the need for additional permissions from music companies. Its spokesperson Cat Griffin has gone on record as saying, “Cloud Player is an application that lets customers manage and play their own music. It’s like any number of existing media management applications. We do not need a license to make Cloud Player available.”

However, the music companies may not be as accommodating. Sony Music spokesperson Liz Young said the company hoped for a license deal but that it was keeping its “legal options open.” We can expect some legal fireworks soon! (See: Hacker Group Threatens Sony, PSN)

By Sourya Biswas

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