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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Early this morning, Amazon became the first big company to launch what's called a cloud-based music service. It lets customers save all of their music online or in the cloud and then access those songs from any Internet-connected device.

But NPR's Laura Sydell reports that Amazon's big move may face some legal challenges.

LAURA SYDELL: The iPod was the first popular device to let you hold a thousand songs in your pocket. The Amazon Cloud Player makes it possible to access your songs from anywhere as long as you have an Internet connection.

Mr. BILL CARR (Vice President of Music and Movies, Amazon): If you have a PC or a Mac with a Web browser, you have your music.

SYDELL: Bill Carr is the vice president of music and movies at Amazon. The company also has a cloud app for Android phones.

Mr. CARR: I recently purchased this album by Fitz and The Tantrums, but I bought it on my work computer. But the minute I bought it, I'd saved it to my cloud drive so it's already available to me right here on my phone. And I can click play, and it will start playing.

(Soundbite of music)

SYDELL: Amazon gives its customers five gigabytes of online storage for free. That's about a thousand songs, and it's about a dollar a gigabyte after that. Amazon does not have an app for iPhone, but that's not surprising. There's been a race between Apple, Google and Amazon to see which company would be the first to offer a cloud-based music service.

Gartner analyst Mike McGuire says it makes sense that Amazon won the race because it already offers online storage services that include access to its popular Kindle eBooks.

Mr. MIKE McGUIRE (Vice President of Research, Media Industry Advisory Services, Gartner Research): They've been investing in building this cloud service for a long time.

SYDELL: But when it comes to music, Amazon could hit a snag.

Mr. McGUIRE: There's going to be some legal challenges or, at least, some rather pointed letters and visits from entities like music publishers.

SYDELL: In fact, two organizations that represent publishers, ASCAP and BMI, were not consulted by Amazon before it launched the service.

Phil Crosland is head of marketing for ASCAP.

Mr. PHIL CROSLAND (Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer, ASCAP): Our concern is that it is simply a way to avoid having to pay songwriters and composers and, in our case, music publishers, as well as artists.

SYDELL: At a time when the music industry is struggling, publishers, record labels and artists are all looking for ways to capitalize on digital music, and Amazon isn't the first to offer a cloud service. Smaller companies like MP3tunes do much the same thing, but that company is being sued for copyright infringement by 14 labels and publishers affiliated with EMI. That suit is over an MP3tunes function that allows users to store potentially unauthorized copies of songs. But even when a user is storing a legal copy, there are other questions.

Mr. JIM BURGER (Lawyer): There hasn't been a square decision saying that that's lawful.

SYDELL: Jim Burger is a copyright attorney.

Mr. BURGER: There is some debate - and you can see it in cases that the content industry has filed in statements that they've made - that they don't necessarily consider it a fair use for a user to make copies of content for personal use.

SYDELL: Remember when the industry fought against cassettes? In a statement, Amazon says it believes that saving music to the cloud is the same as saving it on a personal hard drive or even to iTunes. And while Amazon may be taking a risk, unlike some of the smaller companies that have tried this, it may have the clout and power to pull it off.

Laura Sydell, NPR News.

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