Access to Media

My friend Michael Rollins recently posted a blog entry called Music: Ownership vs Access about bit lockers for music. Due to a problem with comments on Blogger that day my response didn’t get recorded. I thought I’d post it here, mostly because it’s a bunch of words I wrote and that’s what I put on my blog. So I guess I’m cheating to get a blog entry out today. For this to make sense you should read his blog first.

To me it’s all about access. I don’t need to own media any more. In fact, I don’t want it. I don’t buy movies any more, I watch them on Netflix. And I downgraded to the streaming only plan ($7.99) so I don’t even watch DVDs or Blu-Ray any more. While the Netflix streaming collection is nowhere near complete, it’s constantly growing and it already has 10s of thousands of hours of video I’ll never get to. There are probably 200 movies and TV shows just in my instant queue, and I long ago stopped adding to it.

The Amazon cloud service gives you 5 gigs free, and they bump that up to 20 gigs for a year if you buy one album. They just ran a deal yesterday or the day before on the new Lady Gaga album where if you bought it for $.99 that counted as your 1 album and bumped you to 20 gigs.

One thing I find strange about this service is music I bought on amazon before they started the cloud service isn’t in my locker. For example I bought the Stand By Me soundtrack, which I remember loving when I was a kid. Turns out it’s pretty terrible, so I deleted it. Now to get it in my Amazon cloud locker I have to download it again (from Amazon) and upload it back to Amazon. WTF.

Another cool thing about the Amazon service is you can put pretty much whatever you want in it, from what I understand. In addition to storing and streaming your music you can keep docs there.

Also, while you’re right in saying this exact business model hasn’t been tested in court yet a very similar one has, and it didn’t go well. On TWiT Triangulation episode 12 the guest is Michael Robertson, founder of mp3.com. He tells the story of his battle with Universal over my.mp3.com, which was one of (if not the) original music bit lockers. The difference there was you didn’t have to upload your music. You just had to put the CD in your drive and let the software analyze it. Once it figured out what CD you had (based on the unique waveforms, like Gracenote) it unlocked that album in your locker.

Michael Robertson is back at again with www.mp3tunes.com, which is like Google music or the Amazon cloud product, but it’s been around for like 5 years. They also have a product that works along with mp3tunes called dar.fm, which is basically an online DVR for radio. Very cool. mp3tunes.com has caught the attention of at least one label (I think EMI). I think they want mp3tunes, google, amazon, and anyone else running a bit locker to have some special license. They point to things like server de-duping to say that when I upload a track I purchased then stream it back to my PC I’m not really listening to the one I bought anymore. As in, it’s different bits.

And then a correction:

I have to correct something I said yesterday in my comment here. I said in order to get the Stand By My soundtrack (which I bought from Amazon and later deleted) I’d have to download it again then upload it to back to Amazon. But after reading their FAQs I see now that I would have to *buy* it again, download it, then upload it to the cloud service. I assumed once I bought it I’d be able to download it again any time, but that’s not the case.

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