Whenever some new use of the internet to download music comes along, the Recording Industry Association of America tries to shut the action down through litigation . . . unless of course the action was created by iTunes. This time around Apple is interested in cloud computing where iTunes users can access their music database via streaming technology from anywhere there’s the internet. Users would upload their (legally purchased) music onto an Apple server and always have access to their music. Sounds good, only this idea is not new nor has the RIAA been approving of this structure in the past.
Streaming purchased music was an idea that developed in the late 1990’s beginning with Mp3.com. The site initially started by allowing users to purchase music and remotely stream music that a user purchased from the site. The RIAA was leery of this concept and began advocating (much the same way they did after the invention of the Tape Cassette and Compact Disc) that consumers only have the right to use content in the media format that they purchase. Fortunately, the courts had historically ruled that consumers are purchasing the content for personal use and can make whatever copies in whichever media format they wanted as long as it was for personal use. This was the case until the development of My.Mp3.com
My.Mp3.com was developed so that users could store their entire music library online for streaming from anywhere. When a user of the site would insert a CD into his/her computer to demonstrate to the site that s/he owned the album, the site would allow the user to stream that album. Following the development of this site, the RIAA sued Mp3.com (and won) because the site was making “illegal copies” of the content. The RIAA argued that in order to provide music to users in this way, My.Mp3.com would have to pay royalties on every stream because it is a digital copy (or performance – like radio). The RIAA won the lawsuit and this concept went away for a while.
More recently online music services such as Rhapsody.com began to find ways for users to access most major music through the internet by charging a monthly fee. That fee (combined with site advertising) is then used to pay RIAA and ASCAP royalties (and of course generate a profit). Now Amazon.com allows streaming of music though their cloud computing mechanism, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), in addition to their DRM-Free mp3 downloads. Unfortunately, Amazon EC2 is not the most user friendly software and the RIAA has largely ignored it because only the most computer savvy have begun to use it.
The problem here is the relationship between Apple and the Big Four major record labels. When the RIAA clamps down on other services, the labels are always willing to allow Apple to bend the rules. Apple and iTunes have become synonymous for many people with digital music, but little is ever said about the way things were before the RIAA began its assault on online music.