Google Music is one of several services that have ventured into the legally treacherous realm of cloud music storage and playback. However, a recent court ruling may be opening doors to a more efficient and effective approach for Google.
The MP3Tunes Case
MP3Tunes is a cloud music group that was using a legally gray tactic to improve server efficiency: When a user's music was scanned, if MP3Tunes found the same song was already in their cloud library, they just played back the song they already had instead of spending bandwidth on the uploading and streaming of the specific user's version.
That's certainly different than the approach used by Google Music and Amazon, where users must upload their entire libraries. The MP3Tunes tactic is also in seeming opposition to the Cablevision cloud DVR case, where it was ruled that each user needed to have their own file to avoid being in violation of copyright.
The music company EMI took issue with the approach MP3Tunes was using and filed a case in 2007. This month, New York judge William H. Pauley III ruled that MP3Tunes' use of a single version of the song for multiple users was acceptable, with a few caveats.
One such caveat was that the digital file had to be identical. In other words, if the user's library is scanned and MP3Tunes finds a copy of "Major Tom," they can't automatically play back the highest quality version of "Major Tom" from the cloud library. Rather, they have to use a digitally identical version that has the same size, length, and apparent bitrate.
Additionally, MP3Tunes' controversial music discovery system known as "sideloading" was given partial approval. The system allowed users to add any music found on a webpage to their cloud library. While Pauley approved this tactic, he also ruled that MP3Tunes would have to remove any files or links when copyright holders reported that those links violated their copyright.
The Impact on Google Music
The new ruling makes it possible for Google to make a few significant changes to the Google Music service. Most importantly, Google can conserve a mass amount of server space by reducing the number of files actually stored. Users will also be able to save time, since not every file will have to be uploaded individually before it's accessible.
It's also possible that Google would start a "sideloading" tactic of their own, allowing users to import songs found on the web into their cloud library. However, this extra may prove too much of a legal headache to be worthwhile, considering the frequency at which copyright infringement claims could be brought to Google's doorstep.
Google has not yet announced plans for any significant changes. They may be developing and testing altered features, but it's also possible that the company is waiting for the potential appeal or additional claims before they step onto this historically rocky ground.