Sorry: Apple Probably Squandered Millions On iTunes Match

  • Save

If only brownie points counted for something in this game.

But the majors are at war: they prefer retribution and ‘legal jihad,’ unless you pay them a lot of money, cut them a huge percentage, or both.  Absent that, I’ve never really gotten the sense that relationship-building counts with the majors, especially if you can beat them in court.

All of which makes it seem like Apple squandered millions for its licensed iCloud and scan-n-match features, a cost that Google and Amazon decided to skip.  And I don’t think you can hand all those gargantuan advances and percentage agreements back.

Blame Michael Robertson.  He’s got f-you money, and he’s finally been able to say f-you to the labels who made his life miserable.  The result is a DMCA-friendly decision in Capitol Records v. MP3tunes, a decision – pending appeal – that has far-reaching implications for cloud-enabled music consumption, digital song duplication (which enables scan-n-matching), and even clarity on inanities like pre-1972 recordings.

Either way, here we go. Apple unveiled more details on its iCloud, scan-n-match music features to developers on Tuesday.  And, engineers can finally get their hands dirty on a working version (iTunes 10.5 beta 6). This includes the ability to stream songs to connected devices, on top of downloading (a video of those capabilities below).  (Incidentally, the Wall Street Journal does some definitional hair-splitting on this, though this seems to reflect some confusion over local cached content and different types of streaming delivery.)

But can’t Google and Amazon do the same thing, with even more legal clarity and far less cost?  Well, Apple can probably exploit a few licensed advantages here, including the ability to ‘match’ songs with higher-quality versions.  That goes beyond the file-for-file matching authorization included in the recent decision.

The question is whether those differences matter. Right now, Google’s Music Beta is a pain, it takes forever to upload your music! But this is also an invite-only beta, it’s just the beginning. And if the rumors are true, Google could use the savings to offer its cloud for free.