In a decision yesterday, a federal court judge found that cloud music service MP3tunes does not violate copyright laws by using a single copy of an MP3 rather than storing several copies for each person. This is, without a doubt, the biggest news in cloud music storage's short history.
MP3tunes is a cloud music service that, like Amazon and Google's recently launched services, stores music in "lockers" online so you can retrieve them later through web or mobile apps on any computer. MP3tunes works similar to Apple's proposed model for iCloud, where it scans your music collection and uses just one file stored on the server instead of having multiple ones.
That's the exact feature that EMI sued MP3tunes for, and the exact feature that has been deemed legal. It's an incredibly complicated decision, but it boils down to the fact that MP3tunes and like-minded companies will be able to store one single copy of a song and match it with a users' library. That said, the songs need to match perfectly, so if your copy of "Who Let the Dogs Out?" is a few seconds longer than the copy on the cloud drive, you'll need to upload another one.
The biggest problems so far with Amazon and Google's offerings is the fact that you need to upload your entire library onto their servers. If you have a big music collection, it can take days, even weeks, to do this. Now, following this decision, both of the big services and all of the smaller ones will be able to integrate the scan-and-match system, legally.
Perhaps most interesting is an under-utilized service mostly exclusive to MP3tunes called "sideloading." This allows its users to upload songs directly from web pages and blogs and retains the link for future searches. The court rules that provided these links did not violate copyright, it is completely legal, meaning the entire Internet can, in the future, be used as a massive cloud service.
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It wasn't all roses for MP3tunes; EMI also accused it of harboring 33,000 copyright-infringing songs, but the court cut that down to 350. Regardless, the fine will certainly be big for those violations. EMI is reportedly considering appealing the decision.