Apple just launched iTunes Match, its cloud-based music backup and streaming service for iOS, Mac and PC. With iTunes Match, users can store up to 25,000 of their own songs from iTunes in the cloud. Unlike others music locker services (including Google Music and Amazon’s music locker), Apple managed to get a license from the music labels that allows it to just check whether it offers a certain song you have in your library in its store and then make that copy available to you. Because of this, you don’t have to upload your songs to Apple – iTunes will simply “match” your library to its cloud library and play back those songs instead of your own copies.

This also means you won’t have to wait hours (or maybe even days) for your music collection to upload to Apple’s servers. Only those of your songs that aren’t in Apple’s library will need to be uploaded.

iTunes Match is currently only available in the U.S. and it’s not clear when (or even if) Apple will release this feature in other countries.

Better File Quality and No More Worries about the RIAA

This also means that you will likely get better-quality versions of all those files you may downloaded from Napster a few years ago. iTunes Match makes all downloads available as DRM-free 256kbps AAC files.

Indeed, given that Apple doesn’t check whether you actually own a license to a given song, this new program is virtually equivalent to a piracy amnesty that costs you just $25 a year instead of thousands of dollars in potential RIAA lawsuits.

To get started, just make sure you have upgraded to the latest version iTunes (10.5.1) that come out today. You can download this new version from Apple.

But Not Yet…

For the time being, though, it looks as if Apple is somewhat overwhelmed by the demand for this service. New users are greeted by this message:

Update (11am PT): Looks like it’s working now and ready for new sign-ups.

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