Amazon's Cloud Player -- an online file storage service -- upsets the music labels because people could use it to share music instead of simply store and listen to it. Nilay Patel writes that earlier legal outcomes might not be a good guide this time around, because a legitimate role for 'digital lockers' is more obvious than in times past.
What's new for Amazon? Bandwidth, and tons of it. We've reached the point where uploading 5 or 15 or 20GB of data to a cloud service is a feasible task for most broadband-connected consumers, and that changes the nature of the argument entirely. If you're a Cloud Player customer, you get a defined 5GB or 20GB of storage, and the music that lives in that storage is your copy. Your copy that you're allowed to make. It's not "functionally equivalent" to a fair use copy anymore -- it is a fair use copy...
This is going to completely fuck the labels, since they can't argue that Amazon is making unauthorized copies of songs. In order to stop Cloud Player, they're going to have to completely switch tactics and argue that it's actually the content that matters, and that Amazon doesn't have the rights to enable streaming content from their platform. But that's a ridiculous argument, since Amazon is just going to say that it's not actually doing much of anything -- it's just giving users some storage space and publishing an app that can play those files over the network. The labels will have to somehow argue that the content of the music files is protected, since they can't really touch what the users are doing to their own copies.
As an aside, Amazon seems to have timed this very well, working a subtle sea change in how people perceive the idea of online storage (even if usage of it remains quite niche.) I hope Dropbox, one of the killer apps that were a step ahead of it, can keep pace.