Check out our music-tech-policy rundown on the good, the bad, and the awesome of the past week!
Sunshine and “Clouds” Forecasted for Apple this April:
Speculation has been a’ brewing for some time now, but according to Hypebot, Apple’s cloud-based music service may be up and running as early as this April. Users will be able to upload their music libraries into “the cloud” for the price of $20/year and access them on their Mac devices. Hypebot also reports that upon final licensing agreements (Warner Music Group is supposedly in), Apple’s MobileMe will re-launch as “cloud central.” Apple’s potential play may put pressure on other music services and business models, like streaming subscription services (think Rhapsody, MOG and the as-yet-to-hit-the-US Spotify.)
AT&T/T-Mobile Merger and wireless broadband access
Ars Technica comments on a recent article in The Economist regarding the negative effects of the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile merger. Both articles question claims that the merger would benefit consumers: “In an editorial titled ‘Not so Fast, Ma Bell,’ the magazine blows off AT&T’s claim that the merger will ‘further improve the customer experience’ by making AT&T more competitive with Verizon.” The Economist also ponders how a mere two major carriers will maintain the pace of innovation against growing demand. So what does this mean for the open internet on wireless? Ars: “somewhere along this trek perhaps the Commission should reconsider its decision to largely exempt wireless broadband from its net neutrality Order.”
Matthew Lasar, Ars Technica
More AT&T + T-Mobile questions to consider…
Bruce Gottlieb of National Journal (also former chief counsel and senior policy adviser to FCC Chairman Genachowski, as well as an adviser to Commissioner Michael J. Copps) posed four key questions about the proposed $39 billion AT&T/T-Mobile merger. Gottlieb strongly stated that “it will be the tech and telecom issue in D.C. this year,” as buzz around both the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice’s review will increase in the coming weeks and months. His questions:
1. How will the Democrats play this issue?
2. Will Verizon buy Sprint (the other major wireless carrier)?
3. Will Silicon Valley take a side?
4. What about the rest of the regulatory chessboard?
We might add one more question: what might this all mean for musicians? (Stay tuned for more on that.) In the meantime, check out our Rock the Net page to learn more about the importance of access and innovation to today’s music community.
Brian Gottelieb, National Journal
Google Books Case and Orphan Works
Google Books, the company’s attempt to provide a digitally archived and openly accessible library for written works, has been complicated and contentious, to say the least. Since 2004, Google has scanned more than 12 million books — including complete library collections — through partnerships with research universities around the globe. Since then, there have been various settlements, as well as a class-action lawsuit from the Author’s Guild and the American Association of Publishers. This past Tuesday, Judge Denny Chin rejected Google’s proposed settlement, writing that “the latest iteration of the settlement ‘is not fair, adequate, and reasonable’ because it would give Google a de facto monopoly in the book search market and adversely affect the rights of millions of copyright holders.” Ars Technica also calls attention to the fact that, “through the legal fiction of the class action mechanism, the settlement gives Google the right to sell copies of “orphan works” whose copyright holders — by definition — cannot otherwise give their permission.” Orphan works can also be of the musical variety, which is why we follow cases like this. For more information, check out our Orphan Works fact sheet.
Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica
According to Billboard.Biz, Google is in the midst of internally testing its much-speculated upon music service, which will be “a music locker system that would allow users to store music files on Google servers and then stream them to any Internet-connected device running the appropriate software.” Regarding whether or not Google has officially acquired any music licenses has yet to be confirmed. Reports suggest the service will launch in May. (Just behind Apple’s?)
Public Media Takes Another Hit
On Friday, March 18th, a bill was passed by the House of Representatives to withdraw all public funding from NPR. According to the Huffington Post, “Even an amendment that would have allowed for some federal money to pass through to NPR for the sole purposes of facilitating Amber Alerts failed.” Most observers expect the Senate to vote down any measure to defund public broadcasting. HuffPo also notes that the House is “expected to introduce another bill that would, if passed, completely cut federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the entity, which, in part, funds NPR as well as PBS, local public broadcasting stations, content makers and other service providers.” FMC and our friends in the music community are very concerned about the impact such a move would have on the entire music space — from local scense to national touring bands. Check out this letter to Congress from Billboard chart-toppers the Decemberists that explains why.
Song App Aims to Match Your Mood
Mashable recently covered a new music app which creates a playlist that indulges your mood of the moment. Moodagent’s library of one billion songs and counting has measured each song against five factors: its tempo, as well as how sensual, tender, happy, or angry it sounds. Users simply adjust each bar accordingly they will receive a fitting playlist. According to Mashup, “the app has proved sufficient enough for Nokia to make it a default option on some phones in 2009 and for more than five million people to download its Android, iPhone and Nokia versions (BlackBerry, Web OS, and Windows versions are in the works).”
Music Sales on the Rise for 5th Week in a Row – a First Since 2004
Billboard.Biz reports that music sales have seen a steady increase for five consecutive weeks, a trend not seen since 2004 (a recognizably pre-recession era). “From the period beginning Feb. 14 through the week ending March 21, album sales are up 4.5 percent to 31.95 million units from 30.56 million units during the corresponding period last year; while digital track downloads are up 12.7 percent during that period to 130.1 million to 115.4 million in the corresponding earlier period,” Billboard reports. Hooray! The article attempts to pinpoint what forces may have caused this boom in music sales: Grammy performances? The MTV Woodie Awards? The perfect mix of awesome timing and a talented pool of artists? We’re curious, too.