If Google can’t control the content that gets uploaded onto YouTube, why isn’t there one pornographic clip, anywhere? If Google is merely indexing the internet through algorithms, why aren’t promised changes to those algorithms having any discernible impact on infringing links?
It’s these types of questions that are starting to color the ’embrace technology’ rhetoric, and making big labels like Parlophone reconsider their strategies towards Google. According to details now surfacing in the Telegraph, Parlophone has decided not to license Google Play’s cloud, particularly scan-n-match functionality, even though it has licensed rivals like Spotify, iTunes Match, and Amazon’s Cloud Drive. Parlophone controls content from the likes of Coldplay, Blur, Pink Floyd, Kylie Minogue, and Bat for Lashes.
The details are murky at this stage. It should be noted that Parlophone is still licensing a-la-carte, paid downloads on Google Play, which automatically slots content into Google’s cloud after purchase (no content upload or scan-n-match needed). The sticking point seems to surround scan-and-match, which speeds the upload process enormously by instantly matching songs from a collection instead of manually uploading each one.
In our testing, we’ve had success purchasing Parlophone content from Play (a Coldplay track), and uploading a Parlophone track purchased on iTunes (Bat for Lashes). But it was difficult to tell if that track was being ‘scan-and-matched’ or manually uploaded, thanks a fast connection.
A future pullout may also be planned, but the presence of a ‘boycott,’ as the Telegraph phrases it, has been been contested. Billboard, typically a mouthpiece for major label interests, claims a boycott is complete fiction, while citing a label source. But neither Google nor Parlophone will comment on the matter, which suggests a fire belongs to this smoke.
The reasons for an impasse may run deep. Maybe there isn’t enough money on the table, though we’ve seen one artist spreadsheet showing iTunes Match paying more than Spotify. Which raises an entirely different sort of issue: the Telegraph report cited alienation among labels over Google’s policies towards piracy, including everything from search results algorithms to YouTube takedown policies.
And, this sort of classic double-speak. “The way that our search engine works is a completely separate algorithm from anything we do on Google Play,” Sami Valkonen, head of international licensing for Google Play said back in November.
“Our search algorithm is a very complex beast and how it works, I have no clue.”
Google (and Apple, and Amazon) would argue that cloud payouts are additive to download purchases. But of course, that assumes that the uploaders actually paid for the tracks being uploaded, rather than downloading them through BitTorrent or — you guessed it — Google. “Google has been at loggerheads with many music companies over its approach to piracy, partly because it will not automatically demote links to websites which include potentially illegal content,” the Telegraph’s Katherine Rushton relayed.
“Parlophone’s refusal to join the service will be seen as a major blow to Google, which has been battling to persuade music companies it can be helpful to them.”
Stay tuned as more details unfold.