According to the WSJ, Google Music will allow users to listen to their music in the cloud -- that is, through an online server. Users will upload their own music. It's unclear if it will be available on only Android devices, but Google's own phones and tablets will be the primary focus. And Google hasn't obtained any licenses from record companies because it assumes that the users own the songs they play through the service.
Sound familiar? It should: Amazon launched a very similar service last winter. And, like Amazon, we can expect the music industry to try and stop the cloud service. As my BNET colleague Erik Sherman said back in March:
When people obtain music online, they have definitely licensed it but may not actually own the copies.
In other words, listening to digital music via a cloud-based service provided by Amazon or, now, Google, may be illegal.
Google has been negotiating with the notoriously stubborn music industry for months, if not years, and reportedly broke off licensing talks earlier this year. Now it's hoping to safely bypass the studios. The trouble is that Google just went through the same problems with another high-profile service: Google TV.
Let's look at the Google TV timeline:
- No patience for negotiation: Google negotiated with networks for months, which is nothing compared to the years Apple (APPL) or Netflix have spent talking with the same companies
- If they don't move fast enough, try an end run: Once Google realized media companies wouldn't work on its timeline, Google attempted to use their content anyway
- Get stonewalled: Media companies now don't trust Google -- which they barely did in the first place -- and do everything possible to stop the service
- Throw in the towel: Google says the service is delayed until further notice. Meanwhile, third-party companies, which have been crafting products to work with the service, are left in the lurch.
The problem is definitely Google, as it's not like media companies won't work with tech companies. Apple has all but announced its own (presumably legal) cloud service coming this year and even industry frenemy Netflix is still getting deals. Google should stop the cloud service launch, go back to negotiating with media companies, and salvage its relationships before it gets completely stonewalled. We've heard this song before.