Music industry split over iCloud "piracy amnesty"

Fears that iTunes Match feature will act as music laundering service

Stewart Mitchell
7 Jun 2011

Music industry commentators have blasted Apple over an element in its newly-launched iCloud service that they described as a “music piracy amnesty.”

The iCloud service will store music from iTunes and other files on Apple's servers, to be accessed from Apple devices anywhere. Those wanting to use iCloud with music from other sources can pay $25/year for iTunes Match, which scans your hard drive for tracks, and then matches them with an iTunes version of the song online - regardless of where the original track came from.

Unveiled yesterday, the system has already been criticised by some in the music industry for legitimising illegally downloaded copies of songs.

If you can legally park your stolen car in my garage will you rush out and actually pay for your own car?

According to rights lawyer Michael Speck, who ran the music industry's court case against file-sharing network Kazaa, the service is a $25 alibi.

"If you can store all your pirate content you won't need to buy content will you?" said Speck told the Sydney Morning Herald. "Let me put it this way: if you can legally park your stolen car in my garage will you rush out and actually pay for your own car?"

"Putting aside that, this means a 1,000 song catalogue will only cost the pirate 2.5c a song, there is no way that Apple could fairly compensate the actual victims and still take its cut," he said.

Meanwhile, a BBC Twitter feed quoted digital content firm Rovi, which works with Apple, as saying iCloud was "a $25 a year amnesty on those who have illegally copied music".

Introduction to legal services

However, the dissent isn't universal, with one recording industry insider telling PC Pro off the record that music companies might welcome the move.

With Apple expected to take a 30% cut of the iTunes Match fee and pass the rest on to the industry, the recording industry will now get some income from tracks that have already been downloaded and are effectively “economically sterile”.

The insider also said iTunes Match could encourage users with a chequered downloading past to get involved with legal music services.

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