Amazon's music cloud is licensed by all top labels

Update: The retailer has the licensing it needs to offer a scan-and-match feature similar to Apple's iCloud.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
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Warner Music Group, which produces albums by singer Bruno Mars (above), is one of the top-four record labels to license Amazon's cloud service. Harper Smith

Amazon's cloud music service is fully licensed by the top-four record labels, numerous sources have told CNET.

The labels and Amazon aren't talking, but my sources say Amazon is expected to roll out new features for the company's cloud-music offering in the United States sometime in July.

We reported on Tuesday that Amazon had wrapped up cloud deals with Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and EMI, and was in negotiations with Warner Music Group. Information is coming in now that Warner Music Group was actually among the first to sign.

The ways in which the licenses will change Amazon's Cloud Drive or Cloud Player are still unclear, but sources said one feature Amazon will likely offer is Scan and Match.

When Amazon launched its cloud music service last year, the retailer required users to upload each of their individual song files to the company's servers. For people with a lot of music, this was a hassle. Amazon now has the rights to scan each user's hard drive to see what songs they possess. Then the merchant can just give users to access to copies of the songs stored on Amazon's library. They're listening to the same song but not their own song files.

To distribute a song this way required a license because to do otherwise is a copyright violation, the labels have argued.

Apple was first among the big music stores to roll out a licensed match feature. Storing songs purchased from iTunes is free, but to store music obtained elsewhere costs $25 annually. Amazon is expected to offer a free as well as paid version of its cloud, which will work on Android as well as iOS devices, industry insiders said.

A year ago, the licensing issue threatened to create a rift between some of the big music stores and top record companies. When Amazon launched without licenses, label executives were saying that they didn't concede that Amazon's store was legal. They said much the same last November, when Google's cloud was launched without licenses.

Now, Google is the only service among the big three without a licensed service. The company remains in negotiations, but there's no telling when a settlement will be reached.