iCloud May Sync And Stream Even Pirated Music Thanks To Apple Licensing Deal



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?

  • Frank

    Well… Way to mutch, I guess I’ve got about 100 songs trough iTunes and about 2.5k other. If this means I’ve only got 100 songs in the cloud I won’t pay…. I won’t pay double fees

  • Svivian

    I have made many purchases from iTunes but oft-times the songs I want aren’t available there and I have to pirate them to obtain them! So it’s an even split.

    My question is – will it still be able to scan + sync music that is unsigned by any label?

  • Aa

    Great news! I mean i like to purchase CDs and rip them in my library instead of buying from iTunes. The main difference it’s that i pay an ovation to the artist and i have a material thing in my library. So there’s a good oportunity to switch my library to iCloud :D

  • DarylFritz

    Even if they sync in ripped/pirated music, I’m afraid it’s still limited to the songs and artists that are available in iTunes already. They’re missing the point as to why many people pirate to begin with.

  • D.

    just remember, nothing is free in this world in the end somebody will have to pay up for those pirated music 

  • Paul

    You might have to manually upload the songs that aren’t available on iTunes.

  • George

    Obviously, how would they check if I ripped the music from my own CDs, downloaded it or got it from a friend, which isn’t illegal either? If it was limited to music purchased from iTunes that would make it very useless for lots of people. I’m not gonna buy my entire CD collection again for that.

  • Joeking

    I would have to leave 98% of my music on my hard drive, as Ive purchased very little through iTunes. A good move on Apples part would be to drop the price of their media so that people start purchasing music again. 
    Why pay for digital, when you pay the same for a physical CD with an inlay booklet with photos, track info and lyrics? Also, accidentally deleting music in iTunes means you have to buy that track again. Im sure they keep records of our purchases? Pirating music will continue until someone sees the sense to drop the price of paid digital downloads or CDs. Its common knowledge that artists make their money through touring, and not from music sales. 

  • Don

    I’d say about 90% of all my music was purchased through iTunes. When I switched to a Mac, I discovered iTunes and went all in and decided to buy every song I ever liked in my entire life. It cost my about $600. (I only bought songs I ‘really liked’)
    I figured it was the last time I’d have to do it seeing how I’d already bought a lot of songs numerous times, (records / 8 tracks / cassettes / Cds) it was worth it to me. 

  • dale2000

    Who said that everything but the 3 songs were pirated?  You can buy DRM free music from a ton of different sources.  Also, you can rip music from CD in a DRM free way.

    Just because it wasn’t purchased on iTunes doesn’t mean it’s pirated.

  • Ed

    This is a very clever move from Apple. If iTunes were to scan a user’s library during setup, allow pirated tracks through initially and then once setup has completed only allow digitally signed CD’s and itunes downloads to be added afterwards would begin to stop pirate music entering itunes over time. Brilliant.

  • @AJtheTech

    Call me a little parionid but this is just another way of Big Brother via Apple being able to monitor what songs we listen or what shows we watch on our iOS devices. I find it a little invading for Apple and whom ever they choose to share with what songs I have in my iTunes library, does anybody else agree, I don’t want all my personal music on Apple’s servers, this is just another way for them to profile us and sell our data to third party marketing firms interested in the songs we like. And with them to know the amount of songs we have pirated is also another thing I’m concerned about. Share your thoughts please.

  • minimalist1969

    I certainly trust Apple a whole lot more than Google or Facebook.  Because we pay good money for Apple’s products and services we remain the customers and maintain at least some power. Google and Facebook’s customers are the advertisers.  We are just the products they sell.

  • Gary M

    …”or got it from a friend, which isn’t illegal either?”

    um, copying a track or album from a friend IS illegal.

  • Wirehedd

    I spent the better part of a month ripping and sorting HUNDREDS of CDs to my music libray and have since only bought a few dozen MP3s from Apple, Sony and a few others sources. The idea of trying to upload a hundred plus gigabytes of data, with an 80GB/month data cap in place seeing as I’m Canadian, is out of the question. If Apple doesn’t do this then I have no use for their service as I still have several hundred vinyl LPs to rip and convert as well. 

    A major share of my music is also rare and limited in it’s publication so I doubt Apple even HAS a large amount of it to begin with. I did a few dozen searches for some of the more esoteric 80s alternative music I have and out of approximately 50 songs I searched for only 4 were on iTunes. I guess I’m out of luck anyway.

  • Gary M

    If anyone used LaLa which was the cloud based music service that Apple purchased, it would sync your entire music library to the ‘cloud’ regardless of where the music was purchased or ‘acquired’ from.  It would also automatically mirror any songs that LaLa already had in their catalog without having to upload it, and then it would upload the songs that were not present in LaLa’s catalog therefore you entire library would still be available in the cloud.  

    My guess is, as Apple acquired LaLa; is that some of this same technology will be part of the iCloud music streaming service.

  • Brooke Becker Habecker

    I would leave most (85%?) of my music behind if Apple does iTunes only. I bought most of my music on CD in the dark days before the dawn of the iTunes store, so if it’s only iTunes tracks that are eligible for the iCloud, I’ll stay with mSpot.

  • Hampus

    Ehm… How would it even be possible for them to tell a pirated copy apart from one ripped from a disc or bought from itunes/amazon as that is just what pirated music is? Hmmm…

  • Yasaswy Nagavolu

    Seriously you are paranoid.. Who the hell cares what music is on your list.. These things are for better.. If you are still scared.. get that iPhone like devices..

  • aga

    I don’t think the record industry has lost a single penny (cent if you prefer) from me downloading. I first ripped my CD’s (music I paid for already) even though it was actually illegal in the UK until several weeks back. Fair use! I then decided it would be easier to download pirate copies (300 kb mp3) of my vinyl collection (again music I had already paid for) if I had not already bought a CD copy already.

    The record industry has already had a fortune out of me buying the same music in several different formats. Why should I pay them yet again?

  • Yasaswy Nagavolu

    Yeah one of the best steps to drive away piracy.. although we’ll get mp3s some way or the other to our HDDs.

  • MattSTKC

    anything bought from itunes is linked to your account and without authorization, the track won’t play. It’s gotta be either in the metadata or just in your account history or both.

  • Daniel Garcia

    That is only the case for music that is protected (and right now, all videos).  Most music on the itunes store these days is not protected and can be played without authorization.  I know, I do this all the time with roommate’s machines in my house.

  • Rasmus Hellgren

    no, it’s not. copying music for friends and family is perfectly legal in many countries, including my own (sweden), and yours.

    cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P… for general information
    and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A… for the specific legislation making this legal in the U.S.

  • fruvos

    Just imagine they didn’t include some type of audio fingerprinting and you could just create any old mp3 and unlock it for streaming by editing the ID3 tags to appear like any album you wanted. 

    Purchased in iTunes -> available for streaming immediately
    Purchasd elsewhere but available on iTunes -> fingerprinted to check authenticity and then unlocked for streaming
    Purchased elsewhere but not available on iTunes -> uploaded from your machine to the locker and then available for streaming

    That sound about right?

    I’m guessing all those pre-release music torrenters won’t be adding their choons to iTunes now – imagine labels getting royalty checks for uploads to iCloud before the album’s even out …

  • Rxcketeer

    genius, i hope thats the plan because they will lose money if the keep allowing pirated music through the service. I have started purchasing music on itunes myself, its an artist’s hard work.

  • devunish

    There is no way for them to know what you have pirated and what you have purchased.  If you bought a cd and ripped it to your HDD, that song isn’t pirated.  An mp3 that is ripped from your purchased cd can look the same as one pirated…so there is no way for them to say that you have pirated tracks.   As for your other issue, privacy is dead. Shaking your tiny fist in impotent rage isn’t going to make the slightest difference.  You can’t fight this future.

  • devunish

    First let me say that If you see my comment above you will see I somewhat agree with you…however I must side with @AJtheTech on this.  There are definitely potential negative consequences.   For example people that listen to certain kinds of music could be associated with a particular socio-economic class and thus targeted or excluded accordingly.   However, I believe that personal privacy will continue to disappear over the coming years.  The solution is not in boycotting individual services such as  this, I think that an entirely new kind of technology/law will be necessary to protect and share identity on a higher level.

  • devunish

    It is possible to purchase music not from Apple and put it in iTunes.  Not all mp3 sellers use DRM.  Not to mention music you purchased on cd and ripped is not pirated. There is no way to look at every mp3 and tell 100% of the time if it is pirated or purchased. A lot of pirated tracks (so I’ve read) have scene comments in the meta data but that is not always the case.

  • devunish

    Out of my 80 GB or music I would have exactly 1 track that makes it to the iCloud. The High Road by Broken Bells.  Heard it in the end credits of an episode of How to Make it in America and had to have it.

  • devunish

    The smart money learned that lesson along time ago, they are no longer trying to get a free lunch….they’ve long since moved on to ensuring that someone else does the paying.

  • John Marshall

    Wow. I think Apple may have just solved the piracy issue. This is huge. RIAA could stop caring where your music comes from because they get paid anyways.

  • John Marshall

    All you did was talk about how paranoid you are about ‘profiling’ and marketing data. Not once did you mention why. How is your life compromised by Apple knowing this? Do you feel safer when your music is a secret?

    Remember, the people who can truly cause you damage or grief already
    have the important information, like house address, taxable income, SSN,
    and medical history.

    I’ve been listening to people complain about loss of privacy ever since cookies were considered the devil in the 90s. Not once have I seen anything bad come about because some faceless corporation knows what you like.

  • FriarNurgle

    Now that’s a rational and well thought out rumor. Kudos.

  • Deluxe

    Way back when… I worked in the music biz. so my music collection was huge. My iTunes library is overwhelmingly music converted from vinyl and CD to digital formats. iClouds will only be attractive to me if I can access MY music (and some pretty obscure stuff). I am skeptical but after Monday… who knows.

  • Felfac

    I have everything from itunes apart from a few songs

  • Dilbert A

    digital watermarking

  • Dilbert A

    well, not in the U.S. Of A.

  • Rasmus Hellgren

    Uhm. Did you read the links I posted? It is legal in the US.

  • Versus

    Does this really solve the piracy issue? It depends how much Apple pays per track, how much of this gets to artists (especially indie artists who are not on one of the major labels), and how this compares to what the artist would receive if the track were actually purchased.

  • Versus

    Then don’t pirate music.

  • Versus

    That is not “common knowledge”, and is not even true. All my music income has come from music sales. And piracy hurts.

  • ?????? ???????

    Let’s rephrase that… How much would I be able to take with me? If only those purchased from iTunes, then the answer I am afraid may be “zero”… Auch. 

    Perhaps the future of music would be to have a subscription-based service where you pay a set fee and listen to as much music as you like or maybe better to pay a little for every listen of a song in a day say one fee a day if they could have a way of tracking songs you’ve listened to from your device. Such services could be available to certain types of people, say student, unemployed, people with income below certain threshold etc. That type of model has a potential to become amongst the most successful.. Oink if you like the idea :)