A metaphor packs only as much power as it clarifies and makes more real and concrete an abstraction. So hold on to your hats, those of you whose minds get blown in the gusts of technology and its fanciful descriptions. Ready: A U.S. District judge in Manhattan says that, for the most part, companies that run musical locker services in the cloud act as neutral service providers, and, as such, are entitled to safe harbor protections in the Digital Copyright Milennium Act. Got that, Google and Amazon fans?
The specifics of this case concern MP3tunes, its tech innovation guru founder Michael Robertson and the actions of its customers, most of whom legally uploaded music into storage spaces (those “lockers”) in the online area known as the “cloud,” aka on giant servers owned by others rather than on personal computers. Since MP3, if notified, would pull links from customers’ illegally downloaded materials( but not those files themselves), since the firm did not itself illegally upload others’ tunes and since it mostly provided just the storage service, the company largely deserved protections from copyright infringment actions, including one filed by music publisher EMI, said Judge William Pauley.
While some analysts see the Tuesday decision as a boon for the likes of Google and Amazon — both of which launched “cloud”-based music storage services and did so without attempting, as subscription outfits like Pandora and Spotify have, to obtain rights to music — others see more negatives in the judge’s decision: 1. isn’t final and can be appealed 2. actually holds for EMI (what one analysis calls a “hollow” victory) and 3. leaves lingering questions as to whether MP3 should be more aggressive in stomping out copyright infringement in and through its service.