Legal Issues Prevent Cloud Music Services from Launching in Canada, UK

by Jordan Richardson on June 13, 2011

Music cloud services are looking to be all the rage, with Apple, Google and Amazon all talking about launching incarnations in the near future. Apple, with its unveiling of iCloud, is set to launch an online backup system that will allow users the ability to store content on Apple servers to be accessed from anywhere. Our own Matt Klassen introduced iCloud a little earlier this month.

Also in the cloud business is Amazon with its Cloud Player. This lets users upload their own music to Amazon’s servers to be streamed on any device. Google’s offering is Music Beta, a similar service to Amazon’s Cloud Player.

These services are expected to make their debut in the United States shortly, but many other parts of the world will have to wait a while. The United Kingdom and Canada, specifically, are set to run into a web of legal issues that could cause a major pile-up among these sorts of cloud services.

In the UK and Canada, licensing of the music is a significant issue. Emma Barnett, a Telegraph reporter, notes that “A spokesperson for the Performing Right Society, which ensures that composers, songwriters and music publishers get paid for their work, told the Telegraph that negotiations with Apple about ensuring rights in the UK had started but were at a ‘very early stage.'”

Canada will face similar licensing quandaries, as Michael Geist points out. Part of Apple’s service is iTunes Match, a music service that gives users cloud access to their libraries. This service has the go-ahead of major record labels to work its magic in the United States, but Canada won’t be so easy.

“There is nothing to stop the major record labels from licensing a similar service in Canada, yet experience to date suggests it won’t happen quickly. Pandora, a popular U.S. online music service, has indicated that it wants to enter the Canadian market, but that the exorbitant licensing pricing make entry an economic impossibility. Given the current demands of multiple rights holders, the Canadian costs seem likely to keep iTunes Match out of the country for the foreseeable future,” said Geist.

Then there’s the extension of private copying levies touted by the Canadian Private Copying Collective (CPCC). Because cloud services are based on the notion of users storing copies of their tunes on company servers, Canadian copyright collectives like the aforementioned will doubtlessly argue in favour of supplementary compensation for each addition copy, driving the costs of a service like iCloud up – waaaay up.

As you can see, the legal entanglements could be enough to prevent cloud services from launching in Canada and in the United Kingdom, putting users on the outside looking in yet again.

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