"This is just another land grab… It's really disrespectful, and of course we are considering all of our options."
——Marty Bandier


Hey You, Isn’t There a Rolling Stones Song About This Predicament?
Looks like Amazon stepped in a pile of doo-doo when it surprised the entire music biz by abruptly launching its Amazon Cloud service on Tuesday. According to Ethan Smith in the Wall Street Journal, citing inside sources, the Internet giant is aggressively courting the Big Four in hopes of securing licenses—despite the assertion by an Amazon spokeswoman that the service doesn’t require additional licensing deals because the service is intended to store and access users’ own collections.

Smith’s sources added that the talks are also aimed at minimizing bad blood with the majors, some of which werer angered by the fact that Amazon informed them of its plans only last week.

Apparently, some publishers got no warning whatsoever. "This is just another land grab," Sony/ATV’s Marty Bandier told the reporter. "I can't make it any plainer than that. It's really disrespectful, and of course we are considering all of our options."

As it currently works, Amazon Cloud requires users to copy every song in their music library to a remote server, which then plays back those songs to any Internet-connected PC and to Android smartphones.

Intellectual-property experts agree that Amazon probably doesn't need licenses from record labels to offer such a setup, thanks to a precedent set in a 2007 lawsuit over a "remote DVR" system that Cablevision wanted to offer. In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court's ruling that allowed Cablevision to store customers' copies of TV shows and movies on central servers, as long as it maintained separate copies of the programs for each user.

One feature that Amazon has allowed since Tuesday is drawing scrutiny from label lawyers: Amazon Cloud allows up to five people to simultaneously listen to a given song. The Cablevision system that received the federal courts' blessing allowed only a single person to view a movie or TV show at a time. But even if the system does pass legal muster, it could become highly inefficient for Amazon, requiring it to dedicate vast amounts of storage capacity to the service.

As Smith explains, a much more efficient approach, but one that likely does require the cooperation of record labels, is to compare each user's music collection with a central database, and then grant access to any songs already in that database, without actually making new copies of them. Songs not recognized by the system would still be uploaded and maintained as unique copies. In addition to being more efficient for Amazon, such an approach would make for a much faster, easier experience for users. The reporter’s sources said Amazon is pushing to quickly finalize deals that would enable it to offer such a service.

Amazon's seemingly impetuous move this week was widely interpreted in the music biz as a bid to get ahead of Apple and Google, the latter of which is developing a similar service, while Steve Jobs is characteristically keeping his much-rumored plans to himself.

Some music publishers, which own the copyrights to melodies and lyrics that underlie commercial recordings, say they didn't even get the short notice that Amazon gave their record-label counterparts.