MARCH 29, 2011, 12:42 AM
Amazon Introduces a Digital Music Locker
By CLAIRE CAIN MILLER
Amazon.com plans to introduce a service that will let people upload their digital music to the Web and access it from browsers on any computer and from Android phones.
The service, known as a music locker, was made available to Amazon account holders early Tuesday. Amazon will offer a Web-based hard drive backup service called Cloud Drive, where people can store documents, photos, videos and music.
It will also offer Cloud Player, which will let people listen to, download and make playlists from the music they store on Cloud Drive from any Web browser or from an app on Android devices. Cloud Player will automatically upload songs bought on Amazon and scan iTunes or Windows libraries to find other music to upload.
Amazon is racing Google and Apple, both of which are interested in offering similar services. One key difference is that Google and Apple reportedly want to automatically make all the music that a user owns available to stream on other devices, while Amazon will require that people upload music, except songs they buy on Amazon, to access it elsewhere.
The dream of these companies, along with many start-ups, is for people to be able to listen to their music from any computer or phone. But they have all run into the same problem: music labels and publishers would prefer that listeners buy a new copy of a song everywhere they want to listen to it.
Several experts in digital music say that the music locker business is still legally ambiguous. For example, though some companies let people upload their music and listen to it elsewhere without any outcry from the labels, others, like MP3tunes, have been sued by music labels. Another issue: it is impossible for Web companies to tell whether a song was bought legally or downloaded illegally.
Amazon says it has sidestepped the problem, because its users would upload their songs, in MP3 or A.A.C. format, to the cloud-based service, just like backing them up on an external hard drive or a Web-based computer backup service.
“We don’t need a license to store music,” said Craig Pape, director of music at Amazon. “The functionality is the same as an external hard drive.”
Companies including Google and Spotify have been forced to delay introducing certain services while they negotiate with the music labels and publishers.
Several executives at major labels expressed concern about such a service from Amazon and whether it would violate the terms of their current licensing agreements with the company. They agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity because their agreements with Amazon are confidential.
Amazon is offering five gigabytes of free storage and 20 gigabytes free if a customer buys an album from Amazon.
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