The lawsuit will unfold in a New York federal courtroom, with a band of lawyers from EMI squaring off against an online service that provides storage in the cloud for media.
According to MP3tunes Founder Michael Robertson, at stake in this case is whether a corporation can store digital assets for a consumer to access later. Google is supporting MP3tunes as its services depend on the ability for its users to store document, media files and associated data.
MP3tunes' service is not that different from services offered by Google, Dropbox, Hewlett-Packard and the multitude of other service providers that provide customers with the space to keep their files.
In its support briefing, Google points to the sheer volume of data it processes through its online services:
- On Blogger, 270,000 words are written each minute.
- In total, this includes 380 million words written each day.
- On these services, there are thousands of links to music or as Google states, sound recordings, posted by music fans.
- YouTube customers post more than 35 hours of video every minute.
Google cites its protection under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act's safe harbor provisions as why its services can work freely for users. Users are mostly free to store and transmit media files. But if a media company can prove that the service provider is liable then there's the potential Google could be hampered in what services it offers.
The DMCA also benefits the copyright owners. Under the DMCA they can ask the courts for considerable fines and closure of a service that is violating its copyright.
That's the other aspect of the DMCA that gets online music services shut down all the time. The media company can ask for immediate shut down. And it works. Limewire is just the latest to be closed for allowing people to download music from its service. It's a stifling environment but yet we continue to notice any variety of innovative music technologies emerging to provide a new way to explore and create.
Google maintains in its briefing that innovation could be slowed considerably due to concerns about litigation:
If Plaintiffs' views are allowed to prevail, many companies undoubtedly will conclude that the risk of litigation under unpredictable state common law principles warrants diverting resources away from the user-focused collaborative models that today are giving users unprecedented power and choice, and that are currently driving innovation and investment. The burden of this legal uncertainty will fall especially heavily on new start-up innovators--stripped of the legal certainty provided by the DMCA's safe harbors, the next innovation like YouTube might never get off the ground in the first place.
That's the heart of it. The major music labels will continue to join forces to quiet services like MP3Tune. These services have a lot to potentially lose in face of lawsuits over copyright issues.
In its defense, the labels have its own cadre of supporters, including the RIAA.
This case represents what will come to be a continuous friction with the media companies. It will affect all aspects of the technology market. Consumer online services, SaaS providers and any variety of online content offerings have been able to operate freely, making them popular with millions of people. But if the law shifts for the media companies then the outlook changes.
The largest market growth will be in the amount of storage that it is possible for people to transmit. Google is expected to be the leader in the tablet market by 2015. It will continue to offer gigabytes of storage as does Hewlett-Packard with its new tablet offerings. This data storage service will amount to a substantial amount of revenues in the years ahead.
It's un-gated now by protection under the DMCA. And the entire online services industry wants to keep it that way.