Last week, Boy Genius Report wrote that Apple was prepping a significant iTunes update that would add a bevy of cloud computing functionality to Apple’s music player. Some of the features allegedly in the works include wireless iTunes syncing and the ability to stream music and video content down from the cloud to any number of Apple devices.
Sounds cool, right? Unfortunately, though, this type of initiative from Apple may be happening later rather than sooner. Music licenses are a tricky business, and the license required to stream content over the air from Apple’s own servers is not covered by the licenses Apple currently pays for the right to sell music over the air. That said, CNET is reporting, courtesy of music industry insiders, that Apple “has yet to snag licenses from the top four music labels.” And while Apple has reportedly engaged in discussions about licensing rights with various music labels, the negotiation process appears to be in the preliminary stage.
The report notes that Apple could theoretically take the position that it doesn’t need a separate license for streaming music files and subsequently run the risk of ending up in court. Incidentally, MP3tunes.com is currently in a legal battle with EMI over that very issue.
And if Apple would decide to go down this path, it too would face a fight because the labels are very much prepared to stand firm on the issue, the music sources said.
So, unless Apple is ready to go to war, don’t expect an iTunes cloud service–at least one offering music–anytime soon. Music insiders say that while the whole sector would welcome an iTunes cloud service, negotiating the licenses will likely take months.
If you recall, record labels were successfully able to pressure Apple to bring variable pricing to iTunes because Apple needed to obtain special licensing rights to allow iPhone and iPod Touch users to download content over the air.
In any event, it remains unclear when iTunes streaming will become a reality. We wonder, though, if Apple would charge extra for the service or if it would offer it to users for free as a means to leapfrog Amazon and fend off a potential music competitor from Google.