Amazon Cloud Music launched without licenses, has record labels fuming

Amazon Cloud Music launched without licenses, has record labels fuming

Turns out Amazon might have beaten Apple in the online music locker race by sprinting off the blocks well before the whistle was ever blown, at least if the stunned reactions by music labels are to be believed. Reuters reports:

Music labels were informed of the plans last week. Only later did Amazon address the issue of negotiating licenses, one source close to the discussions said. That executive called the move "somewhat stunning" and noted that some within the media industry said the service might be illegal.

"I've never seen a company of their size make an announcement, launch a service and simultaneously say they're trying to get licenses," said the executive, who requested anonymity because the discussions were not public.

I'm no proponent of the music labels, their myopic view of technology, their contempt for their own consumers, and their constant attempts to make us pay over and over again for the same content, but this might just explain how Amazon was able to launch so quickly. If Apple, Google and others are waiting to get licenses -- or have been waiting for months or years -- Amazon going without them is certainly a head start.

Ironically, the music industry has given Amazon head starts in the past -- including early access to DRM-free songs and cheaper price-points -- in order to bolster competition and try to reduce iTunes' market share. That they didn't this time is interesting, as will be the record labels' response.

Whether you agree with the music industry's position or not (and personally I hope they continue sinking into the same Jurassic tar pit their dinosaur brethren did eons ago), does the lack of proper licensing -- and any uncertainty it might create -- change the likelihood of you using Amazon's new cloud music service?


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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Amazon Cloud Music launched without licenses, has record labels fuming


Very interesting article, Rene.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure whether this will help comparable cloud-based music services or not. The legal ramifications could have consequences for deals-in-progress being pursued by Google or Apple. As you rightly point out, the music industry certainly has a shaky history when it comes to embracing technological innovation (and when I say shaky history, I mean no history).
Oh, and on the subject of history, I should hasten to point out that the extinction of the Dinosaurs actually occurred in the Cretaceous period.

If I purchased the MP3s on Amazon (on else where) and upload them to Cloud Drive, why the hell should Amazon need a license to let me stream my own music to my devices? DropBox doesn't need a license to let me stream an uploaded MP3 to my iPhone, neither does Apple's iDisk app. So what makes this one service so specific? Because it has the word "player" in the title? That's insanity. This isn't like Pandora, which is paying licensing fees because they are streaming content to users that the users don't own. This is a user uploading an MP3 they own and then streaming it to themselves... the fact that the music industry even thinks they need to license something like this is absurd.

I suspect the crux of it is the same issue that almost killed off internet radio a while back... In essence, they are probably arguing that this is a "broadcast performance" of the song, and RIAA requires their pint of blood in a payment for each "broadcast performance".. per song, per listener stream, (at a much higher $$ rate than terrestrial traditional radio).

The think that could protect Amazon and the loophole they may end up using is that this isn't a streaming service but a Cloud storage service. People aren't paying to stream music their paying for storage on Amazon's servers. Depending on how Amazon setup their "free storage" for MP3s purchased from them will determine just how drawn out this ends up being.

Amazon Cloud Music....
(Cue the Price is Right lose music)
Fail!!!! The record labels are going to chew you up and spit you out....

funny how fan boys suddenly support the labels as soon as they go after apples competition.

Spot On , Tom.
Had this same thing happened to Apple , then people here would see the record label companies as scumbags.

Apple worships will instantly see this as a negative, because they are extremely blind much of the time.. this is a great thing

I made much the same comment as Mike in the other thread -- but, to reiterate:
If I am storing my legally purchased property offsite at a location I am renting, to exclusively stream my property back to me for my use, then nobody has any right to tell me otherwise, or to demand an extra license from me, or from any part of that chain.

Exactly. The only thing they could possible get Amazon on is how they do the "free storage" for the MP3s purchased, if they just link you to their own MP3 storage or if they actually allocate space and make a copy of the MP3 only accessible to your account.

Even then, they (should) have no ground to stand on. I paid for my music, and the record labels are not party to my contract between Amazon (or Apple) and me. If I share those tracks or broadcast, they should be able to come after me, but, otherwise, my personal use is frankly none of their business.
Then again, in many countries the domestic recording industry gets a cut of every blank cassette and CD sold, just on the off chance the blank media would be used for piracy, so anything is possible with these people...
(Just to tweak Rene: the link for Canada's levies: :) )

If I had to bet money on it, I'd say Amazon gets away with it, if true. But if Apple had done this, they'd get their pants sued off them.

I purchase my music content exclusively from Amazon because it is not DRM'd. I've been waiting for something like this, It's about F'ing time. I think it's great. I've already got most of my purchased content pushed back to their Cloud Drive and I'm enjoying listening to it with the Cloud Player as I type this.
Mobile Me should have a player already!
Good on Amazon for beating Google and Apple to the punch!

Although my data connection is reliable, I second that. I can blow through a large chunk of my 2GB using Pandora at the gym. I do not understand the appeal of moving media to the cloud. $10 per GB is mighty expensive.

Aside from other users being able to login under a 3rd party account (which could be controlled somehow), why are record cos upset?
Hopefully the Apple response will be to allow iTunes in the cloud so you don't need to worry about iTunes backup or if you have enough licenses to port to your new laptop!

It seems that every article is touting this "Buy an album and you get bumped up to 20GB of extra storage!"
This is not entirely true as those 20GB's are only good for one year. After that, you'll be paying quite a bit more for Amazon to host your music.

And they wonder why there is so much piracy? I bought the LP in the 80s, the same CD in the 90s the DVD-Audio after that - just to get better quality of the same licensed product. Now I DL off iTunes for a lo-fi version to play thru my crappy iPhone earbuds? - I deserve to be screwed over by the record labels!

Doesn't Amazon already have an MP3 Store? They need a separate license to offer this service?

Amazon responded in much the same vein as a few comments here:
"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."
Later on,
"[W]e do not need a license to store music in Cloud Drive," Griffin added in an e-mail to Ars. "The functionality of saving MP3s to Cloud Drive is the same as if a customer were to save their music to an external hard drive or even iTunes."

Personally I hope the labels sue. Not that I want them to win mind you. It will take the likes of Amazon and Apple to have the deep pockets to say No to the labels and Screw Off to them also. These might now be the 100 Ton Gorillas that they don't want to mess with.

For somebody who claims not to be a proponent of the labels, you slide into their terminology very quickly.
"proper licensing" - the phrase not only implies Amazon is doing something wrong, it by default also grants the record companies' argument that one in fact needs an additional license to use one's own property. I would argue the reverse, that the only proper licensing for such a personal use case is no licensing.
"gets away with it" - implies Amazon is doing something illicit or illegal here. They certainly do not think so, nor do their customers, or any court. The record companies might, but they have to make the case.
They have not. Don't make it for them, even inadvertently, by using loaded phrases.

Glad to see a company with the resources to fight back against the big labels give a go at this. Should be interesting.

I agree with mech1164. I'd like to see litigation on this, with the hopeful goal that the courts side with consumers and allow us to store our paid content as we see fit. Record companies are going the way of banks, insurance companies and airlines - all industries that do a grave disservice to their customers in the name of profit.

I don't think the labels have a leg to stand on here. The don't like it, and may make Amazon pay for it future negotiations for music, but I don't think Amazon has anything to worry about in regard to this feature.
Amazon is a ruthless retailer though. Apple gets into a media firestorm for not being nice to developers and providers, yet, Amazon essentially gets a free pass for being a ruthless retailer. They are currently teflon.

You really make it appear so easy with your presentation but I in finding this matter to be actually one thing which I feel I would never understand. It seems too complex and very wide for me. I'm looking forward on your next post, I'll attempt to get the hold of it!