Cloud Rights

Word on the street is that Apple will soon announce its own cloud-based music service. The idea is that it will compete head on with services recently released from Google. Speculation is that there will be one key difference, Apple will have the blessing of music companies to sell music through their service. Tech news is a buzz with rumor and gossip on the issue. Most have proclaimed Apple the winner. However, no one seems to have asked the question: Who should win?

Google’s Music service is very straightforward and simple: upload your music library to their servers, access it from any web browser or Android based device. It operates in the premise that you own the right to listen to your music. Copying to your partition in their cloud is no different than copying to your mp3 player. Technically, this is an incorrect interpretation of your “ownership” of the music. When you purchase a song, whether it be a CD or mp3 or whatever, you agree to very specific terms on how you are able to use that song. When you purchase a CD, you do not own that music, you own the right to play that CD in a CD player. You do not have the right to copy that music to your iPod, and the music companies are the first to point out how gracious they are for allowing you.

The flaw in the google model is that you must upload your music yourself, with all the time and bandwidth costs associated. It’s no different than the time you spent ripping your CD collection to mp3 in the first place. Apple will have the advantage to check your record of songs, purchased through iTunes, and instantly make them available to all iPods/iPhones/iPads. There’s a huge convenience factor there. But that convenience also comes with a hidden cost. All of Apple’s terms and conditions must be written at the behest of the music industry. That means, once again, you don’t own anything beyond the right to play music on your iDevice.

The mantra of “I paid for it, therefore I own it.” is a valid argument. Google’s approach took great strides to reinforce that idea in the minds of consumers. As far as Google music is concerned, it’s your private library and you can put anything you want in there. This is an extremely important distinction over the rumored Apple model. it is very unlikely that you will be able to rip an old CD and put it in the Apple cloud. You’ll have to re-buy that song from iTunes. It’s also very possible that songs you buy in the cloud must stay in the cloud, making it impossible to share between friends.

It is said that Apple will make their announcement early next month. Being a Macintosh user, and an Android user, I have an interest in the success of both companies. However, the success of Google’s music service is far more important for the rights of consumers. It will be shame if it becomes overwhelmed by Apple glamour.

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