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Is the Cost of an iCloud Membership Meant to Make-Up for Music Piracy?


Note: This is a guest post written by Brandy O

After months of mentions and teases, Apple has finally released iCloud to the public. Designed to replace the unpopular MobileMe, iCloud, in essence, is a way for those who own multiple Apple products to sync content between them via a remote server that houses all shared data. This primarily means music. Through iCloud users can copy music files and share them with others using the service, including music that wasn’t directly downloaded through iTunes.

So what does the music industry have to say about this?

Not much ever since Apple cut them a preemptive $100 million dollar check last spring.

iCloud is free so long as you only use a paltry 5 gigabytes of data. Otherwise you pay $20 to $100 a year depending on how much storage space you want. This is a remarkably revolutionary way of paying for a cloud service, and makes much more sense than the traditional monthly-payment model of competitors and Apple’s own former cloud services. The industry accolades over this payment system point to the fact that cloud-users are more likely to buy into a cloud service that sets out the pricing and limits from the get-go. But nobody is quite too sure whether or not it’s a better deal than what people can get through the cloud services provided by competitors such as Amazon and Microsoft.

Let’s forget for a moment that iCloud is going to exclusively cater to those with Apple products so that any talk of competition is going to be immediately skewered. Let’s also ignore the untouchable state of Apple tech support, which when it comes to newfangled technology is always armed with the ability to help customers, for a fee of course. Let’s instead focus on profit-based incentives for Apple to price their service the way they do. Since there’s no obvious reason Apple would decide to change up the cloud service payment model other than to be different, which for Apple is a given, there has to be a rawer incentive buried beneath.

Back to that $100 million dollar payment Apple made to music labels. Even though it’s only the beginning if iCloud grows to become a success, the preemptive nature of the deal signals that there was a storm cloud on the horizon so to speak, and that Apple managed to change the weather. Speculation points to a potentially brewing crisis over Apple allowing P2P files into iCloud. The enormous cash payout to music labels is apparently a way to essentially “make up” for all of that pirated content that’s about to become legitimized through the iCloud.

That leads us back to the implementation of an iCloud flat-fee payment plan. Essentially what Apple has done, is that they’ve paid for a percentage of the total amassed debt owed to music labels for years of illegally downloaded music. Now, to think Apple has any interest in footing the bill for our music piracy is silly. They plan to pass that onto each and every one of us who use iCloud, who they assume, and assume correctly, have all done our fair share in downloading music illegally. To ensure they get that money back, they’re charging iCloud users with a flat rate up front.

Apple either doesn’t see the potential for their customers to get aggravated or they simply don’t care. But iCloud’s sell has so far been it’s unification of Apple products. This article has been entirely about the music sharing end of iCloud, but it’s a service for sharing all sorts of data. For customers who either have no illegal music to share or for customers who adhere to iTunes for all of their digital music needs, the act of forcing them to pay for part of a deal to allow illegal music to exist on iCloud and therefore encourages more users to join, should be viewed as a disgrace.

But as is often the case, Apple has managed to disguise their buck-passing through ingenious marketing. People are probably going to warmly embrace iCloud and the annual fees without wondering why it is the way it is. Maybe it should be that way. So long as Apple customers are okay with a few paying for the penalties of the many, there shouldn’t be anything for the California-based corporation to worry about.

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