Will Amazon Cloud Player Survive?

Perhaps you’re wondering why there’s been no full review of Amazon Cloud Player on Android.AppStorm? It’s because we’re waiting to see whether Amazon is going to be allowed to continue. Last week, the streaming music app Grooveshark was kicked off the Android Market, and we’re wondering whether the same thing will happen to Cloud Player.

The Grooveshark Situation

Grooveshark is a mash-up of Spotify and Pandora: it’s a web app that lets you stream music, upload your own, find recommended tracks, and search for tunes.

On April 6, the Android app version of the service was removed from the Android Market, by Google, with only the vague explanation that “We remove apps from Android Market that violate our policies”. Grooveshark later released a statement saying that they “haven’t received any specific information from Google about what in the developers’ terms of service, exactly, we need to address to be re-admitted to the marketplace–only that Google received a letter of complaint from the RIAA.”

Amazon Cloud Player is a web app that lets you stream music and upload your own. You can see why we’d be worried about its survival.

The Big Difference

There’s a huge difference between the two apps, though. Amazon’s app only allows users to listen to music that they have uploaded themselves; the idea is that it’s a cloud-based storage system like Dropbox, which just happens to have a great interface for dealing with MP3 files. Grooveshark, on the other hand, allows users to listen to music uploaded by anyone, essentially trusting users not to upload any tracks for which they don’t own the copyright — a bit like YouTube.

Even so, Amazon upset a few big names in the music industry; Sony Music spokeswoman Liz Young said, “We hope that they’ll reach a new license deal, but we’re keeping all of our legal options open.” See, Amazon didn’t obtain any streaming licenses before launching their service, claiming that they weren’t necessary (as in the Dropbox defense, mentioned above). As they explained in an email to the music labels:

There has also been speculation that we are looking for licenses for Cloud Drive and Cloud Player. We are not looking for licenses for Cloud Drive or Cloud Player as they exist today – as no licensees are required.

There are, however, potential enhancements to Cloud Drive and Cloud Player that would require licenses and that we are interested in – like the ability to replace multiple copies of the same music track uploaded by different customers with a single server copy that could be used for all customers with the same track.

Licenses permitting us to do that would save storage costs and would be good for customers because they would reduce the number of tracks customers need to upload to Cloud Drive themselves.

There are also rumours that a future version of Cloud Player will allow users to share certain tracks with their friends — but only those tracks for which Amazon has obtained the streaming license rights.

The Likely Future

From my comfortable Internet armchair, Amazon seem to have a perfectly legitimate stance on not needing licenses. But I am not a lawyer.

The music industry is not exactly known for being quick to embrace new technology or keen to let tracks spread without receiving some sort of kickback. And if Google did remove Grooveshark in response to a request from the RIAA, we must assume that they’re looking into the Amazon situation. It’ll be worth their while to be on the right side of the music industry when they finally launch their long-awaited music streaming service.

If I had to bet, I’d say that Amazon will make it work, somehow… but we might see a few significant changes to their service over the next couple of months.