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Google changes tempo of music approach

Google hires well-regarded music attorney to help negotiate YouTube's music licenses, new Google music store, and to create licensing template for cloud music.

LOS ANGELES--Here at the epicenter of the entertainment sector, two news reports about Google's digital music plans have the music sector buzzing.

Elizabeth Moody, a well-respected attorney who has negotiated numerous licensing on behalf of Web music services, has joined the search engine, TechCrunch reported on Friday. Another story that appeared Monday in the New York Post says Google is in New York trying to rush a licensing deal through with the Harry Fox Agency.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt (left) shakes hands with Doug Morris, Universal Music Group CEO last December. Greg Sandoval/CNET

Harry Fox licenses mechanical and digital rights for thousands of publishers. Last month, CNET reported that Google could launch a music service this fall. Google declined to comment for this story.

Launching a music service would be simple if all Google intended to do was offer digital downloads or a subscription service. But Google has more ambitious plans to strike an unprecedented cloud-music licensing deal with the four major record companies, music industry sources told CNET. That is why music industry insiders believe Google went outside for legal help.

The cloud is supposed to represent the next step in the evolution of digital media services. Apple and Google have both discussed building cloud services for both film and music, according to numerous sources at the major movie studios and record labels. Each company has discussed hosting their users' media on their servers. Users could then access their movies, music, and e-books from Web-connected devices. At this point, Google appears further along in launching a cloud service than Apple, sources said.

To reach an agreement on cloud music will not be easy. The labels have yet to license music rights for the kind of offerings that Google and Apple are said to be working on. "There's no template," said one music source. "They're going to be starting from scratch and that's not easy." What that means is that if negotiations go poorly, they could conceivably delay the launch offering until next year.

But Moody could help speed things up.

She has worked for years with tech-music guru Fred Davis at the firm of Davis Shapiro, Lewit & Hayes, a firm that has represented such services as Spotify, MySpace Music, iMeem, MOG, iLike, Bebo and Playlist, according to TechCrunch. Moody knows all the major players at the big record companies and is well respected, sources said.

Coming up with a cloud deal won't be Moody's only chore at Google. Some of YouTube's licensing deals that enable users to incorporate songs from the major labels into their videos are coming up for renewal.