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Google Music wants to open MP3 store (report)

Streaming music is so hot you don't hear much about MP3s--except at Google, which reportedly plans a new store.

Google has been pretty quiet about music since unveiling a cloud service in May, but now the search company reportedly wants to launch an MP3 store.

Google could launch the music store in the next several weeks, according to the New York Times, which said the search giant has held talks with top record labels.

The MP3 store would likely be connected to Google's cloud music service, the Times reported. In addition, one source with knowledge of the talks told CNET today that Google has also looked into the possibility of obtaining worldwide music rights. Apple has also sought similar music rights for the new iCloud service.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment.

Several other industry sources told me that there is no final agreement about the MP3 store and talks are further along with some of the record companies than they are with others.

Google is talking about an MP3 store at a time when MP3s and music downloads have been eclipsed in popularity by streaming services and the cloud. That's the term used for a service that enables users to store songs and other digital media on a third party's servers.

Other than Apple's iTunes, Amazon is one of the few noteworthy stores offering MP3s for download.

Going back to last year, Google had plans to present a music service with many more features and capabilities but negotiations over licensing broke down, the company said.

In Google's case, some of the licensing troubles can be traced to the love-hate relationship between the record labels and the search company.

YouTube, the online-video service, helped the record industry reignite interest in music videos. The ad revenue the service generates is significant now, say industry insiders. When word leaked over a year ago that Google was interested in raising its profile in music, there were high-fives exchanged at some of the top labels.

Google has the kind of money and technical know how to mount a serious challenge to iTunes, something record execs have sought for years.

Google has also made a greater effort in recent months to fight online piracy, including the severing of ties with accused pirate sites that generate revenue by posting Google's ads on their Web pages. Nonetheless, many in music believe that embedded deep in Google's DNA is a serious animosity for copyright.

In the book "Free Ride: How the Internet is Destroying the Culture Business," Cary Sherman, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, recalled a speech he gave before a few hundred Google employees in 2006.

He complained about a requirement that a copyright owner had to fax a request into Google before employees would remove pirated content. Copyright owners once complained Google's take-down process was too clunky. How did Google employees react when informed they were holding copyright owners up?

"They applauded," Sherman told "Free Ride" author Robert Levine. "They just see copyright as something that gets in their way."

Some at the labels continue to pressure Google to do more piracy busting. They have suggested that obtaining content might be easier if the company showed more prowess at protecting that content.