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A legal ruling today paves the way for companies to launch music lockers — online storage for users to upload their own music collection so they can get to it from any device.Both Amazon and Google launched locker services earlier this year without getting permission from the record labels, and both companies claimed those services should be legal.
It looks like they were right.
A couple years ago, several record labels sued a similar service, MP3tunes.
As Ars Technica explains, the labels argued that MP3tunes should have known that some of the music in the locker was pirated. Therefore, MP3tunes couldn’t claim immunity under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for those files.
Today, a judge rejected line of reasoning, saying that users — not MP3tunes — were responsible for uploading their own collections.
In other words, music lockers do have DMCA immunity.
That means copyright holders will have to identify pirated content and ask for it to be taken down — very difficult, except for leaked music that hasn’t been officially released yet.
Equally important, the court ruled that playing back a song from a music locker does NOT constitute a “public performance,” which would trigger certain kinds of rights payments. It also found that music locker providers don’t actually have to store all the multiple copies of the same song that every single user uploaded — they can use a single file (“deduplication”) to represent all the uploads.
The ruling wasn’t a total victory for MP3tunes, though. The company also had a music search engine called sideload.com that let users find files online and load them directly into their lockers. Record label EMI found some infringing content on this search engine and asked MP3tunes to remove it. MP3tunes did that, but didn’t take the files out of users’ lockers. MP3tunes founder Michael Robertson was also found to have downloaded some infringing content in this way as well.
The case could still wind its way through several more appeals, but right now it’s looking pretty good for music locker services — and the fans who use them.
A copy of the legal ruling is available here.