License Issues May Delay Google's Take On iTunes

Dennis Faas's picture

Google is reportedly testing a streaming music service. It doesn't necessarily mean a public launch is imminent, however; the company would still have to reach an agreement with record labels, which may be complicated by the nature of the service.

Google Music wouldn't be a download service in the same way as the iTunes store. Indeed, it's possible it wouldn't necessarily involve buying music at all.

Streaming Music Across Devices a Possibility

The idea is to provide a legal way for users to stream music from one device to another.

While precise details are under wraps, it appears there would be two very likely options and a potential third option. The first likely option is that users could remotely access music stored on their computer hard drive for playback on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet running Google's Android, meaning that users wouldn't be constrained by the often limited storage space on such devices. (Source:

The second likely option is that it would be possible to buy music on the portable device and then automatically send a copy to a PC for use at home.

The other possibility is that users could automatically copy music from their computer to be remotely stored on Google's servers in the same way as its Gmail and Google Docs services; that would mean being able to listen to the music on a portable device even when the computer was switched off.

Devil's in the Details

The big problem is that existing license types don't neatly cover such options.

That's partly because the music is neither being bought outright nor broadcast, and partly because the service would involve music that people may either have already bought (but are only licensed to use on a particular computer) or have pirated.

In both cases, Google and the record labels will need to come up with a precise definition of the way Google is using this music before even getting into the issue of what royalties or license fees it should pay record companies.

It appears such questions have proven troublesome to resolve, since reports suggest Google was originally supposed to launch this service late last year.  (Source:

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