Streaming platforms

Thanks to Cloud Computing, it is possible to listen to music everywhere. The only condition is a good Internet connection. The music industry is constantly changing and developing new ways to play music. What began a long time ago with shellac and vinyl records, with cassettes and later CDs, finally got to MP3 files. Now, the switch to the "cloud" lies ahead.

 

Bye bye CD

 

Due to the digitalization, the music market has changed significantly in the last few years. The right technology at the right time always had a positive impact on the branche. The market for CDs and records is going back, but the digital market for music downloads is growing.

 

Inspired by YouTube

 

With YouTube as a role model, several online streaming platforms started their business in the recent years. The streaming technology allows the user to listen to music as soon as he receives the first data.

 

Simfy, Last.fm, Spotify, Napster

 

German providers who are also operating in Austria are Simfy and Last.fm. Other well-known streaming platforms are Spotify from Sweden and Napster from America. Those can also be used by Austrian consumers. Google (“Google Music”) and Amazon (“Cloud Drive”) currently started their own cloud services. Alone, the giant Apple is still insisting on the good old download technology.

 

No local data storage

 

The basis of Cloud Computing is that all applications are web applications – beginning with simple software up to complete operating systems. All programmes are saved at giant server parks usually operated by companies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon or IBM. Those servers provide more performance than they need. This results in an idle that costs those companies a lot of money. They therefore make the unused server performance available for privat persons and other companies.

 

Cloud Computing enables streaming

 

Simfy, for example, runs on Amazon servers. Every music file that lies on this rented server space (the Cloud) is available to users of the platform. They can play music via online streaming over an Internet connection. In order to play the music it is not necessary to download any files and to save them on a hard-disk, because they are on the digital cloud. All users can access them at the same time.

 

Benefits of Cloud Computing

 

It is irrelevant which device is used – smartphone, notebook, tablet or PC. Only precondition is a good Internet connection. Providers benefit from the fact, that no costly hardware or storage space. And the server operators earn money by renting the unused server performance.

 

Fighting illegal filesharing

 

The streaming technology lets the music industry hope as illegal filesharing is a serious threat since the 1990s. The industry did not react fast enough to the MP3 technology. By now, downloads exceed CD purchases by far. Even the big legal download platforms like iTunes and Musicload could not compete with the illegal platforms. Streaming platforms should serve as a solution.

 

Financing by advertising

 

Streaming platforms free of charge have the opportunity to gain a foothold on the market. They earn money by advertising, with banners on the website or short audio spots between two songs. When a user registers on such a platform, he has to state information like his sex, age and taste in music. With this information, the advertisments can be individually tailored to every user.
As a result, users are only confronted with ads they might actually be interested in. But also platforms with costs have the opportunity to enter the music market. They need a sophisticated business concept and successful marketing to point out the benefits of streaming as an alternative to downloads.

 

Where does the music come from?

 

Streaming platforms are in principle legal. The operators have licence agreements with the big music labels like Sony, EMI, Warner Music, The Orchard, Merlin, Finetunes and Universal Music. In return, they request a share of the advertising revenue and of potential charged premium music services.

 

Streaming or download

 

The only way to actually own a music file is downloading it. Most streaming platforms do not provide the possibility to download files, but allow users to upload music from their computer. This leads to legal grey areas.

 

Saving data on a cloud is legal, but making data protected by copyright public is illegal. Additionally, conflicts may arise due to the fact that the American copyright differs from the European copyright.

 

It is not likely that streaming will replace downloads. Most devices have so much storage space these days that streaming is no attractive alternative for most users. Music lovers who want to listen to music on different places with different devices might prefer flatrate streaming services for more independence.

 

Definitions

 

Streaming. File packages are received by the sender and immediately played. Loading and playing processes happen at the same time. If the connection is interrupted, the stream stops.

 

Pros:

  • Users pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to music streaming.
  • Users can access music from everywhere.
  • Music cannot get lost as it is in the cloud.

Cons:

  • An Internet connection is necessary.
  • If the streaming platform disappears from the market, all music files are lost.
  • You don’t own the music files.
  • The music can only be played online or with an app on the smartphone or computer.

Cloud Computing. Parts of the hardware (storage space) or software (music program) is rented from one or more providers as a service. The user no longer has his own server, but retrieves the needed data from the so called cloud via an Internet connection.

 

Pros:

  • An Internet connection is not necessary.
  • The music is available on every device.
  • The user owns the music file and can listen to it as often as he wants.

Cons:

  • Downloading big amounts of data also needs a lot of storage space.
  • The music is lost when the storage space (hard disk) is lost, damaged or destroyed.
  • The user pays for every music file.

When you save data in the cloud, always keep in mind that the cloud is not private.

 

Is streaming music legal?

 

As long as you use a streaming platform that concluded licence agreements with the rights holder, you are on the safe side. The question, if streaming music from a platform that does not have such an agreement is legal, is a controversial discussion amongst lawyers.


Some copyright experts think that listening to a stream privately is allowed without an agreement. Their argument is that the transmission happens in real time and without a copy on the hard disk. Users just listen to the music, they are not downloading it.

 

Other lawyers contradict: In order to stream music, intermediate storage at the user’s device is necessary. Such an intermediate storage is only allowed for legitimate use. If the user listens to a stream of an illegal provider, the use is not legitimate and therefore the user also violates copyrights. This has not yet been clarified in court. No court has sentenced a user of illegal streaming services.

 

To be on the safe side, do not use any services that look like they provide pirated music files.

 

What consequences might occur if I upload songs on a platform without the permission of the rights holder?

 

If you share music on the Internet with other users, you need the exploitation rights. If you do not have those rights – and you do not get them by simply buing the MP3 or CD – you violate copyrights and ancillary copyrights. The rights holder can act against you and the online provider.

 

In most cases, the online platforms state in their conditions of use that you can only upload files for which you have all necessary rights. If you break these rules, you can be excluded. The provider might be obliged to report your identity.

 

Am I allowed to permanently save streams on my hard disk with special software ?

 

If the provider of the platform has the necessary licences and enables downloads, you can download the music. But if you use special software to download streams from a platform which does not provide this service itself, you are entering another legal grey area. If it is a legal platform, the download is allowed as long as it is only used privately, not commercially and not transferred to third parties ("private copy").

 

If the platform has no licence for the music, many lawyers state that the download is illegal because no private copy can be made of illegally provided content.

 

However, the usage of download tools is in most cases forbidden in the conditions of use of the streaming platform. Violations can lead to exclusion.