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Music Industry Will Force Licenses on Amazon Cloud Player — or Else

Music Industry Will Force Licenses on Amazon Cloud Player — or Else

Amazon’s decision to launch its new Cloud Player without securing additional music licenses has been described as a “bold move” by many observers. It takes serious guts for Amazon to simply declare that it doesn’t need licenses — especially when even casual observers know the music industry thinks otherwise.

Still, this isn’t a one-dimensional issue, and the law has yet to deal much with services like Amazon’s. Record companies fantasize about huge revenues from streaming services, and they fear digital lockers like the plague.

If the record labels don’t come to a licensing agreement with Amazon soon, they will either be forced to take legal action or implicitly allow other music companies to ditch cloud licenses too.

Amazon vs. the music industry

Amazon launched two new services, Cloud Drive and Cloud Player, earlier this week. U.S. Amazon customers can get free online storage from Amazon to use for whatever they please, but users are heavily encouraged to upload their local music libraries. All Amazon MP3 purchases are automatically synced to the user’s Cloud Drive without counting against the quota, too.

Once the music is copied to the remote drive, users can then use the Cloud Player Android or Web app to stream the music to any compatible device or browser, even if the files themselves had not been synced there.

Both Apple and Google are expected to launch very similar services in the future, but neither has made an announcement. Google’s music service is rumored to offer both music downloads and streams to go with its own digital locker — the service would scan a user’s computer and automatically add any tracks that Google has licensed to that user’s online locker.

Apple’s may involve unlimited music redownloads and streams to iOS devices as part of a MobileMe revamp, and Apple is currently believed to be in talks with the Big Four music labels — Sony Music, Universal Music Group (UMG), Warner Music Group (WMG) and EMI — to make it happen.

If Apple and Google are dutifully trying to hammer out licensing deals, why did Amazon go ahead and launch Cloud Player without them?

Amazon argues that Cloud Drive and Cloud Player are just services that let users upload and play back their own music, just like “any number of existing media management applications.” After all, licenses shouldn’t be necessary for users to play their own music, right? The labels seem to disagree — they expressed shock following Amazon’s announcement, with a Sony Music representative implying that the company was looking into legal options.

But are licenses required for users to play back music that they have legally purchased, even if that playback is coming from “the cloud?”

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