Amazon's move to offer cloud music without an OK from labels may set a legal precedent eliminating the need for such license agreements. Image: CC stef thomas/Flickr license agreements from labels may set

Amazon Cloud Player is an online music service that allows users to establish personal playlists accessible anywhere. Amazon offers the first five megabytes of music storage free, plus other incentives it hopes will lure customers away from iTunes. By forging ahead without any licensing agreements, Amazon beat Apple and Google to the punch as they negotiate with record companies.

How Amazon Cloud Player works

Amazon Cloud Player is a suite of software and services that allows users to listen to uploaded music on any device with no copying or synching required. Every song uploaded to Amazon Cloud Player is always available without consuming storage space. The Amazon Cloud Player has a free uploader that lets users send MP3 and AAC files from a Mac or PC to an online music library. Copy-protected songs, WAV files, ring tones or audio books won’t upload. The music streams at the full 256 kilobit quality of uploaded files. Amazon offers the first five megabytes of storage free, enough space for about 1,200 MP3 songs. Users who buy an album from Amazon get storage bumped up to 20 megabytes for a year. Songs bought from Amazon once a Cloud Player account is opened don’t count against the storage limit. Storage over five megabytes costs $1 per megabyte per year.

Cloud Player caveats

Analysts praised the elegance and ease of use offered by Amazon Cloud Player. But some wonder if the data is secure. The Amazon Cloud Player license agreement reads: “You give us the right to access, retain, use and disclose your account information and your files.” Plus: “We do not guarantee that your files will not be subject to misappropriation, loss or damage and we will not be liable if they are. You’re responsible for maintaining appropriate security, protection and backup of your files.” Amazon Cloud Player has also been released as wireless carriers phase out unlimited data plans. Music files virtually guarantee to bust the limits on monthly data plans. Listening to music from the cloud will be best done in Wi-Fi hot spots. In areas with no cell service or Wi-Fi, users will have to rely on their iPods.

Amazon goes out on a limb

Amazon Cloud Player has music labels peeved. While Apple and Google have been negotiating license agreements with record labels for their cloud music services, Amazon forged ahead. Music labels believe cloud music services must be licensed, but Amazon said cloud storage, because it functions exactly like an external hard drive, doesn’t require a license. Some analysts have said that Apple and Google are happy to let Amazon take the risk of setting a legal precedent that eliminates the need for licensing cloud music services. Apple and Google are expected to unveil their own cloud music services later this year, possibly with subscriptions that allow users to listen to music they don’t have to own — or pirate — beforehand.


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PC Magazine:,2817,2382830,00.asp


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