Amazon Steps up Cloud Offering, Gives Unlimited Music Storage (for a Limited Time)
Amazon Steps up Cloud Offering, Gives Unlimited Music Storage (for a Limited Time)

In a letter to music labels, Amazon says its Cloud Drive locker has boosted Amazon MP3 sales. The company also reiterated the claim that its current setup doesn't need a license.

The letter, signed from the Amazon Music Team, doesn't back up its claim about increased sales, but speaks further on the licensing issue, which has some music rights owners up in arms. As an Amazon executive told Billboard in the April 16 issue, the company reiterated the claim to label suppliers their view that Cloud Drive is a general external hard drive in the clouds, an online storage service for all digital files.

"There has also been speculation that we are looking for licenses for Cloud Drive and Cloud Player," the e-mail said. "We are not looking for licenses for Cloud Drive or Cloud Player as they exist today -- as no licensees are required."

That's because Amazon says its service is not unlike Google Docs, Microsoft SkyDrive and any number of other internet file backup services, all of which requires a license "no more makers of external hard drives for PCs do."

But the e-mail goes a step further, saying, "Cloud Player is a media management and play-back application not unlike Windows Media Player and any number of other media management applications that let customers manage and play their music. It requires a license from content owners no more than those applications do. It really is that simple."

But the note also points out that Amazon foresees adding "potential enhancements to Cloud Drive and Cloud Player that would require licenses, including serving different customers with a single copy and save on the efforts by customers to upload music to the Cloud Drive." The letter ends with, "expect to hear more from us on potential licensing in the near future."

One group of rights owners who want to hear more -- and they want to hear it now -- is the National Music Publishers Assn. Last week, the organization's general counsel Jay Rosenthal sent a letter to Amazon, asking the company to clarify the basis for its opinion and wanted more details on the service. Of specific concerns are serious issues, among others, that have been raised regarding lax "privacy" protections and the failure to include filtering components that would otherwise identify illegal music placed in a user's "locker."

"It is extremely troubling that [Amazon] would launch this without having discussion with copyright holders so we can discuss whether a license is needed," NMPA president and CEO David M. Israeite tells Billboard. While Amazon appears to want to add services and license music, Israelite added that Amazon's initial approach "doesn't create an environment of trust and cooperation."