Intellectual Property

Over at Reason, they’re boasting because Business Insider chose Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie for its list of the only pundits you need to pay attention to between now and the election.

I’m happy for Matt and Nick, but I want to draw your attention to something else that caught my eye. Go ahead and follow either of those links and look at the picture that Business Insider used of Matt and Nick.

Actually, let me just include it here:


Now I happen to think that’s a pretty good picture of Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie. It’s in the classic Reason tradition of making them look slightly goofy, yet they’re still identifiable, and it shows them in the very act of punditry. Kudos to the Business Insider photo editor.

I do have one problem, though. Take another look at the photo. Notice anything…familiar about it? Think you might have seen it before?

I’ll give you a hint: In the background you can see the logo of the Heartland Institute, which held a book signing event for Matt and Nick at Jaks Tap here in Chicago a few months ago. You can even check out my post about it, which starts with a similar photo. A very similar photo.

Amazon has just launched a new service called Cloud Drive. It’s a virtual online diskdrive where you can store your files. These files are then available to you anywhere on the web. If you upload music files, you can play them back on any PC, Mac, or Android device. The first 5 Gigabytes are free, and you can buy plans up to 1000 Gigabytes for $1/GB/year.

What could be wrong with that?

Well, I don’t pay a lot of attention to the music business, so this is probably pretty common, but according to a CNET story by Greg Sandoval, the record companies and movie studios are demanding a piece of the action, on the theory that people might use the service to store records and movies. However, they’re willing to overlook this little problem if Amazon cuts them in on the action.

What the company didn’t do was license the rights to do this from the major Hollywood film studios and top record companies. Certainly, many from the film and music camps believe that without obtaining the proper permission, Amazon’s new service violates their legal rights, multiple sources from the entertainment sector told CNET.

That’s just nuts. Cloud Drive doesn’t allow you to share files with other Amazon users, so the only people who could download pirated content are the people who uploaded it in the first place. Also, Cloud Drive doesn’t include software to decode music or videos protected by digital rights management (DRM), so even if people upload their iTunes music or other protected files, they still can’t play them on unauthorized devices. Everybody else is uploading content they obtained legally, and I don’t see why the content owners should get paid again just because people are using Amazon to store content that they’ve already paid for.

It sounds like Amazon sees it that way too:

“We don’t need a license to store music,” Craig Pape, director of music at Amazon, was quoted in the Times as saying. “The functionality is the same as an external hard drive.”

Naturally, the minions of Big Content do not agree: 

This was not warmly received by some of the top four labels. They have made it clear, since cloud services began to generate attention last year, that their current licenses do not allow for cloud distribution or storage. As far as they’re concerned, anyone offering these features needs permission. The Wall Street Journal on Monday evening quoted a Sony Music Entertainment representative saying, “We are disappointed that the locker service that Amazon is proposing is unlicensed by Sony Music.”

I’d like to say I’m disappointed that the folks who run Sony Music Entertainment are a bunch of douchebags, but they could only disappoint me if I’d been expecting something better. This is the same bullshit the record companies tried to pull twenty years ago when Digital Audio Tape (DAT) was released. First they tried to stop the technology, and then they tried to arrange to get paid a small fee for every blank DAT tape sold, on the theory that people would be using them to make illegal copies of music.

Let me put it this way: I have a rental storage locker where I keep a lot of old stuff, including a couple of boxes of vinyl records. Do these record companies now think that Public Storage owes them licensing fees for storing my records?