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Does Google Deserve Record Label Licenses?

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It was reported yesterday that Google is trying to get all cozy with record labels in relation to securing licenses to sell music al-la-carte. This comes after essentially giving these same labels the middle finger in relation to securing licenses to their Google Music cloud-based locker service earlier this year. And yes, Michael Robertson’s MP3tunes court case with EMI resoundingly proved that technically Google does not need licenses for that service.

However, when using Google any person can type in request a search of ‘Jay Z torrent right now’ and get over 1,150,000 results providing links to websites that allow Google users to download illegal content, does leave a bad taste. In this respect Google does have a lot to answer for as in TMV’s view it is actively enabling its users to break copyright and illegally download unlicensed music tracks. The first two results on the aforementioned Google search showed The Pirate Bay and provided links to illegally download the track from their site.

As such Google is what could be referred to as an accessory to a crime in legal terms as TMV have repeatedly stated in previous posts. This is situation is quite frankly unacceptable for all content owners out there.

What Google needs to realize is that by enabling and actively promoting the illegal sharing of content, they are over the long term actually shooting themselves in the foot. If content producers continually have content stolen, they then have less to invest back into new content creation. If new premium content creation begins to become stagnated than there will be less content for Google to search and hence less advertising revenue.

Statements from friends and associates regarding Google’s current cloud music locker service are that it sucks primarily due to the facts that users a). Suffer from extremely slow song-by-song uploads without current catalogue matching and b). Apple is about to release a service providing way better user experience. Subsequently, Google DO need licenses if they want to improve on what is currently a very bad user experience. The fact they now also want to include al-la-carte sales into their digital music offering compounds this requirement.

Subsequently, TMV would suggest that the major labels and Merlin only agree to licenses upon written confirmation that Google will with immediate effect prevent links to torrent sites coming up in any searches not just those related to music content. Assurances from Google need to be attained otherwise it is TMV’s view that their music service should be allowed to die, due to pathetic user experience.

On the flip side labels do need someone as powerful as Google to operate across all digital music business models including, al-la-carte, streaming and other variations. Consumers deserve a viable alternative to the iTunes monopoly. It is also TMV’s views that all labels need to play fair and offer Google a level playing field in terms of splits between wholesale and retailing pricing models. If labels are prepared to offer terms equal to Apple and Google commits to the aforesaid assurances in writing than it should be a match made in heaven. Google has stated labels need to act more like partners – well the labels also have a valid point in reference to Google and its continued promotion of piracy.

Partnerships are a two-way relationship and so both sides need to be able to make compromises. The key compromise that needs to be made from Google is preventing ALL links to torrent sides from all search results. This has to be non-negotiable. These businesses make money from stealing and Google is a clear accomplice in enabling this thievery to occur as well as profiting from it.

Labels MUST also agree equal terms to Apple. Labels cannot expect new digital music businesses to have such unfavorable wholesale prices, as they are quite simply not viable. The current iTunes monopoly is bad for the labels because they have become increasingly reliant one retailer who has them by the cajones. This same monopoly is also bad for consumers. It is in the interest of both labels and consumers to have a company like Google that can help to break up the iTunes monopoly.

On a final note, TMV would also state that it is in the best interest of consumers, digital music services and labels if a third company like Amazon where to also enter the fray on a level playing field with both Apple and Google as instead of duopoly, we in the industry and consumers would have real competition in the digital music arena for the first time in history.

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