Here’s another NY Times Op-Ed, this one by Rebecca MacKinnon, titled Stop the Great Firewall of America. MacKinnon compares effects of the the proposed Stop Online Privacy Act–the Senate version is the Protect IP Act–to the Great Firewall of China, i.e. Chinese censorship of online content. These proposed laws would upend the DMCA notice-and-take down provisions that establish the ISP safe harbor from liability for copyrighted content and impose affirmative duties on ISPs to screen for unauthorized posting of copyrighted content. These are dangerous laws that would protect copyright at the expense of speech and other democratic principles.
In the late 1990’s MyMP3.com offered a type of cloud music service. The company bought tens of thousands of music CD’s, stored the tracks on its servers, and allowed subscribers to create a music locker from those CDs the subscriber owned. One verified ownership by inserting a physical copy of the CD in a computer’s CD player for the MyMP3.com service to recognize. Thus “ownership” meant physical possession of the CD, meaning one “owned” all CD’s that one’s friends were willing to loan for the verification process. UMG Recordings and other record labels sued MyMP3.com out of existence in 2000 because the company had not obtained the copyright licenses necessary to operate the service.
Eleven years later–or two days ago, in other words–Amazon.com unveiled Cloud Player, a storage and music-streaming service. Ars Technica describes how it works:
Amazon customers 5GB of online storage to use for whatever they please. If they buy an album from Amazon MP3, however, they get 20GB of storage for the year, and all Amazon MP3 purchases are automatically synced to the user’s Cloud Drive without counting against the quota. Users could then use the Cloud Player Android or Web app to stream the music to any compatible device or browser, even if the files themselves had not been synced there.
What licenses does Cloud Player require? Here’s the Ars Technica headline: Amazon on Cloud Player: we don’t need no stinkin’ licenses.* Amazon.com has decided that (in Ars Technica’s words) “since users are uploading and playing back their own music, the original download licenses still apply and no new licenses are necessary.” Cloud Drive users are uploading their own music or storing music purchased from Amazon.com, so the service does not feature the unauthorized copying of tracks that was MyMP3.com’s foundation. Sony Music–the only major label that responded to Ars Technica’s request for reactions to Cloud Drive–is keeping its “‘legal options open.'”
An 800-lb gorilla challenging the music industry’s interpretation of copyright law? This will be interesting.
*Bonus Feature: clip from Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the “no stinkin’ licenses/badges/[insert noun here]” source