A court ruling may pave the way for cloud-based music and storage services to expand their features, enabling Amazon Cloud Player and Google Music to compete more strongly against Apple’s iCloud service.
A U.S. District Court judge in New York ruled that users, not companies, are ultimately responsible for the material in their cloud accounts. The distinction puts offerings like Amazon Cloud Drive, Google Music and Apple’s iCloud under the aegis of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The act essentially says websites and online services cannot be held liable for copyright infringement if they promptly take down material once notified by copyright holders.
The ruling was issued in the case that record company conglomerate EMI Music brought against bygone online music service MP3tunes four years ago. EMI, one of four major U.S. music labels, along with fourteen others, sued MP3tunes in an attempt to force it to store separate copies of each song for different users rather than keep one copy for multiple listeners.
The ruling clarifies and assures issues of copyright, music and online services, and opens up the way for a burgeoning set of cloud-based music services to expand features.
Amazon’s Cloud Player, Google Music and Apple’s forthcoming iCloud all allow users to upload and stream music, video and other files from remote servers to a variety of devices, including smartphones, tablets, and computers.
While Apple negotiated licensing agreements with the four major record labels before rolling out its service, Amazon and Google went ahead and launched its services without licensing, much to the recording industry’s consternation.
Amazon faced threats of legal reprisal by record labels for its haste, but yesterday’s ruling, which absolves companies of copyright infringement, alleviates those issues.
Amazon and Google now have leeway to expand their features as well. Amazon Cloud Drive and Google Music initially required users to manually upload their entire music catalog and store separate copies of each track, an extremely lengthy process for consumers.
The ruling, however, opens up a way for those services to simply match songs already on servers, saving hard disk storage costs. This also allows Google and Amazon to match Apple’s service, which already has the ability to match songs on iTunes with a cloud-based music locker, due to Apple’s negotiations with music labels before it announced iCloud.
As a result, Amazon and Google’s service may more strongly compete against Apple, which initially offered a level of convenience to cloud-music users with large libraries to upload.
The court also ruled that playing back media files from a cloud service is not a “public performance,” which also reduces the amount of royalties services may have to pay to rights holders.
Neither Apple, Google or Amazon commenting on yesterday’s ruling, but EMI expressed dismay that the court validated “a business based on stolen music.” The record company will likely appeal the ruling.
“We will continue to fight,” EMI said in a statement.