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.
How is it piracy if I store an .mp3 track that I bought on a private cloud server that only I have access to that account?
I don't understand the fuss about this 'amnesty' as there is always the presumption of innocence. Has anyone been sued simply for possessing pirated music? AFAIK, MPAA cases so far were about online sharing (of just a few songs) and if someone has 25000 songs on their hard drive - so what. File hashes prove nothing because I could have ripped my CD using the same encoder and quality settings as someone else and we would have identical files.
Any file they don't find a match for gets uploaded to Apple's servers. Since you can't check ahead of time whether they have a copy or not, and you can't selectively enable iTunes match, and Apple doesn't talk about the details of how Match works in their Terms and Conditions, it seems to me possible that they could for example provide access to the MPAA to say hashes of the files that their users upload. Since they are clear in their Terms and Conditions that they don't condone piracy, I don't think you can cry foul after the fact. You can I suppose enable iTunes Match, download the new matched music manually song by song, then replace your originals, disable the service and HOPE. Not sure that's exactly a promise of amnesty though...