When MobileMe gets rebranded as iCloud on Monday, it’s most anticipated feature is the ability to scan your iTunes library and automatically mirroring it in the cloud without uploading a single audio file. The big question about scan and sync has been whether it will only work with tracks purchased in iTunes, or if it’ll work with tracks ripped from CDs, purchased from Amazon MP3 or — yes — even pirated. Apparently so… because Apple will pay the record industry for every pirated track.
In a fascinating article by Weldon Dodd over at GigaOm about the complications of negotiating licensing deals for iCloud with the music labels, there’s an interesting rumor: to get over the sticking point of people uploading pirated tracks into the iCloud, Apple has agreed to pay a small amount for every song synced with the iCloud, even if it wasn’t purchased on iTunes.
If you think about it, it makes sense. Apple can either take the leap of faith of ponying a tiny amount up for each song and overlooking whether it’s pirated or not, or it can pay presumably even more money in extraordinary bandwidth costs as millions of users upload gigabytes of data to their servers. Apple’s got the cash to go the leap of faith route, which will probably save them money in the end of the day, as well as result in a better experience for users. From that perspective, it’s a no brainer.
Dodd raises another interesting point: by refusing to sign licenses with the music labels, Amazon’s Cloud Locker and Google’s Music services have actually made Apple’s offer to pay a small amount for every track more attractive to a music industry suddenly paranoid about being left out in the cold. By refusing to ink deals, Amazon and Google may have unwittingly given iCloud a huge leg up over their own services.
Fascinating stuff. If true, I’m personally relieved: I think only three of the tracks in my extensive iTunes library were actually purchased through iTunes. What about you guys? If scan-and-sync only works for iTunes-purchased songs, how much of your music collection would you have to leave on your hard drive?