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1/10/2013
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Amazon AutoRip Provides Free Digital Copies Of CDs

Amazon has copied years worth of your music purchases to its Cloud Player.

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Amazon.com customers who have purchased music CDs as gifts without declaring them as such may be surprised to find that the company has returned the favor: Music from a large selection of CDs and MP3 files acquired from Amazon as far back as 1998 can now be accessed online through Amazon Cloud Player -- whether or not the source CD has been retained -- thanks to the company's new AutoRip service.

Amazon AutoRip adds 256 Kbps MP3 audio copies of music purchased from Amazon, on CDs or as a digital download, at no charge to the customer's Amazon Cloud Player, where it can be accessed by up to 10 devices per account.

"What would you say if you bought music CDs from a company 15 years ago, and then 15 years later that company licensed the rights from the record companies to give you the MP3 versions of those CDs ... and then to top it off, did that for you automatically and for free?" said Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder and CEO, in a statement. "Well, starting today, it's available to all of our customers -- past, present, and future -- at no cost."

[ Apple is trying to improve its App Store, Read Apple Targets App Store Bait And Switch Scammers. ]

Amazon says that gifts are not eligible for AutoRip, but the company has no way of knowing whether a purchased CD was given away as a gift if the buyer did not check the "Is this a gift?" checkbox during the online purchase process. And now that Amazon is providing customers with digital copies of music CDs, the company has created a disincentive to declare how a purchase will be used.

Until a few years ago, Amazon would have been buried in lawsuits for copying digital music on behalf of consumers -- particularly music from CDs they no longer possess. But thanks to the 2009 Cablevision ruling, which removed some uncertainty about whether companies could store copies of copyrighted content on behalf of clients, and to the willingness of large digital content vendors to pay licensing fees, Amazon is free to copy music in the name of its customers, whether they want their purchases stored with Amazon or not.

Think of it as Amazon's take on "Hotel California": You can click checkout any time you like, but your purchase data never leaves. As far as song data goes, you can delete the files Amazon has copied to your cloud drive. But the company is hoping most customers won't, because it sees AutoRip as a way to compete more effectively with Apple's iTunes and Google Play, both of which store customers' music files in the cloud for playback and offer music matching services. Keeping customers' files keeps customers coming back.

AutoRip is an expansion of the scan-and-match service Amazon launched in July 2012 as an addition to its Cloud Player. The scan-and-match service copies music in locally stored iTunes and Windows Media libraries to Amazon's Cloud Player if the scanned songs exist in Amazon's 21 million song catalog.

Music matching services encourage usage of cloud-based music storage by alleviating the burdensome process of upload locally ripped music files -- a waste of time and bandwidth when Amazon, Apple and Google probably already have most commercially recorded songs somewhere on their servers.

The Amazon Cloud Player provides storage for up to 250 songs at no charge and, beyond that, for up to 250,000 songs at a price of $25 per year. However, the company does not count songs from over 50,000 AutoRip-approved albums or MP3 downloads purchased from the Amazon MP3 Store against these storage limits.

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