Thursday, April 14, 2011

Amazon Cloud!

Amazon Cloud Player is such an amazing idea, and so out of the blue (for me anyway). I know talk about Google's streaming music service has been a rumor for literally months, but Amazon seemed to just pull this one out of a hat.

Here's how I see it:
  • (As they boast) you never have to worry about syncing music across devices again
  • It integrates with Amazon MP3, the competitor right behind iTunes (in the US at least)
  • You can play it in any web browser
  • Tight integration with Android devices
  • More space on your phone/device (since it's stored in the cloud)
  • Android app is very primitive (among other things, no Scrobble support.....yet)
  • Streaming uses data and battery, and requires reception
Obviously the pros vastly outnumber the cons. I mean seriously, can you think of any reason you wouldn't want this functionality? The best part about this idea is that it's optional; if you want, you can have it store your music on your Cloud Drive, or you can just have it download to your computer/device, or both. Overall, I think it's a phenomenal service and I'm ecstatic about it.

Legal issues:
As for the legality of it, I'm no lawyer, but here's how I see it:
  • Q: Am I allowed to upload my music to Dropbox?
    A: Yes, it is my data and I can do what I want with it, including using a service to back it up online.
  • Q: Can I then download it on any computer and play it?
    A: Yes, it is still my data and I am still allowed to do what I want with it; the online service is just a storage device, much like a hard drive or a flash drive, only intangible.
  • Q: If I were to cut out the middleman (downloading), could I still listen to the music?
    A: Yes, it is still my data, and skipping the process of downloading it locally does not make it any less my data.
Amazon MP3 Store
One of the differences between Amazon and Dropbox is that Amazon also runs the Amazon MP3 store, and somehow that is supposed to be shocking to the record labels. First of all, duh, Amazon Cloud Player is not about making money from the subscription, it's about drawing in people to use Amazon MP3; why else would they make MP3 purchases not count toward your limit? Secondly, this doesn't change the situation at all:
  • Q: Am I allowed to download the songs I buy on a website and then have them uploaded to Dropbox?
    A: Yes, the two are unrelated; one is the act of purchasing the music, the other is hosting it on your web service subscription.
  • Q: What if I use something that does this automatically like Amazon MP3 Downloader?
    A: The principle is still the same, it just cuts out the middleman.
  • Q: Does moving this process server-side change the principle at all?
    A: No.
Again, they are two separate actions: one is transferring a song that I legally bought to my possession, the other is making it available on a web service. So NO, the Amazon MP3 store does not effect the argument. At all.

Defining the transaction
I read that some iPad apps are allowing users to stream content from a cable box; that is completely different.When you pay for cable, you are paying for a service. You are not paying for the TV shows you watch, you are paying for the ability to watch a variety of shows. You aren't agreeing to own anything: it's a service that you can access as long as you pay, then when the payment stops, the service stops.

When you buy music, however, you are purchasing a product. You are exchanging your money for something that you own, in this case, data that is an mp3 file. Once the transaction is completed, the seller has no more say in what you can do with that product, as long as it is within the law. DRM is no exception: it's an anti-piracy measure (albeit a lousy one) that still gives you the song, but enforces that it is only played by the person who bought it. (Actually, the reason most people hate DRM is that it's very close from being a service instead of a product.) Alot of people use this reasoning for piracy, but that is a whole other discussion. The unarguable point is it is a product. And a product means that you may personally use it any way within the law.

Speaking of the law, I don't think I've heard this from Sony itself, but I know I heard that one of the reasons people are afraid is that it could be used for piracy. Bullshit. Piracy is like the race card: yes, it is a very pressing and serious issue, but it gets pulled way too often. Sony and others need to wake the fuck up and realize that piracy is happening an insane amount now (and has been for quite some time) and a corporate service like Amazon Cloud is not going to make an impact. At all.

The whole idea of using it for piracy is complete bullshit. As far as I know, it's not possible to share a folder/music on the Cloud Drive, and even it was, how would that be different than services like Dropbox? (As far as I know) it's extremely easy to "pirate" in Dropbox: drop your music in a folder, click "Share", then post the link around. (They probably monitor this for suspicious activity, but then so could Amazon....if they decide to allow shared folders.) Really, the only way Amazon Cloud Drive could be a source of pirating music is if you decided to give out your password to every single person you wanted to pirate with. Is it possible? Yes. Is it actually a threat? No.

I just cannot believe the the music industry still vehemently refuses to modernize. When it comes to things like commercials or TV shows, yes, they should have to pay for songs. When it comes to services like Pandora, yes, they should have to pay because they are letting the user play any music out there. But Amazon is giving you accessibility to your own bought-and-paid-for music, and the record labels are throwing a hissy fit. It's not like it's costing them at all anyway; they're still getting paid for when you buy the music in the first place, on Amazon MP3 or not. But they're greedy and want a cut of the pie, even if they have no right to it.

If anything, it might help the record labels; as one article said, it could really help people "buy more music if they could do it during their lunch break at work without having to consider transferring the files to their own computer." I've already found this true for myself; earlier today, I remembered a song that I wanted to buy and before, I probably would have waited until I got home to make sure I would get it both on my phone and my PC, but today I bought it on the spot. Yeah, it's kind of a stretch, but the point is, there is more than one way to look at the issue.


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