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Monday, July 05, 2010, 03:00 pm PT (06:00 pm ET)

Report sheds doubt on recent rumors of imminent iTunes Cloud

Widely syndicated rumors that Apple would soon be adding wireless streaming, cloud sync, and wireless device sync to iTunes have been called into question by a new report indicating that the company is still working to negotiate licensing agreements with the studios and labels.

The article "Exclusive: Apple iTunes in the cloud definitely happening soon, wireless syncing!" was published by Boy Genius Report last Thursday, attributed to a "Lindsey S." But the next day, Greg Sandoval of CNET News reported "An iTunes cloud service not imminent, insiders say."

Licensing negotiations delay iTunes.com

The CNET article pointed out that Apple "has yet to obtain necessary licenses from the top four recording companies, multiple music industry insiders told the publication. These industry insiders said Apple has indeed engaged in discussions with the music labels but that the record executives haven't even seen all the details yet."

While other online music services, including MP3tunes.com, stream users' music from cloud servers, those offerings have been the target of lawsuits from music labels who insist the servers must be licensed to distribute their music. Apple is extremely unlikely to align itself against the music labels in a high profile fight for the right to stream user's music from its own servers without a negotiated licensing agreement in place.

Apple has also shied away from involving itself in controversy surrounding the ability to rip DVDs, a practice that is technically equivalent to ripping music from users' own CDs, but is mired in DMCA issues because ripping DVDs involve removing a layer of encryption. Other firms are fighting the movie studios to establish users' rights to rip their own movies, but Apple has not taken that task upon itself.

Apple is likely to avoid pushing either issue because it doesn't want to complicate its already delicate negotiations with the studios and labels over selling iTunes content. Apple is also under government scrutiny over its existing deals with media companies, something that could only be complicated by embroiling itself in licensing disputes with the companies that already claim Apple is abusing its market position. And of course, Apple has no financial interest in fighting to help users rip their own DVDs when it can instead offer to sell or rent content, or push bundled Digital Copies as a feature unique to iTunes.

In contrast, Google appears to be more willing to incur the media companies' wrath in promising to offer Android device users a new music streaming service based upon its own acquisition of Simplify Media. The independent MSpot service, which Google promoted in parallel at its recent I/O conference, already offers this ability. It appears Google is watching MSpot to determine if the water is safe before it dives in with its own streaming service.

While Apple recently acquired the Lala streaming music service, CNET reported that its "music licenses would not transfer to Apple," citing music industry sources. "Under the agreement Lala had with the labels, any acquisition of the company required the new owner to renegotiate the licensing agreements," the publication said.

iTunes Replay delay, again

A year and a half ago, AppleInsider reported that Apple was in the process of building out cloud services for a new media streaming feature that was to be named iTunes Replay. This April, an update noted that the company was still in talks with studios and labels, working to convince them to reach a licensing agreement.

Peter Kafka, reporting for the Wall Street Journal, wrote in late April that Apple's negotiations with labels for iTunes cloud services were "preliminary at best," and that you shouldn't "hold your breath."

That article added, "sources say the company approached the labels earlier this year about a cloud-based 'locker' service, where users could streams songs they owned to multiple devices. But that went nowhere quickly — 'a swing and a miss,' in the words of an industry insider — because the labels argued that streaming a single purchase to multiple devices constituted multiple uses, which meant they should receive more for the songs they sell through iTunes."

A problematic source

This information was all public and easy to find when BGR went to press with "exclusive" details attributed to a single source. Interestingly, that same source had previously been cited in connection with other rumored details related to iTunes that have never materialized. While the site frequently publishes accurate documents and photos related to AT&T and other carriers based on its sources within mobile-related retail stores, its track record in reporting exclusive news related to Apple has been poor.

Last August, the site claimed "pretty reliable sources" in reporting that iTunes would add support for Blu-Ray and social media integration related to Twitter, Facebook and Last.fm. Shortly afterward, BGR offered "further clarification" again citing the same "Lindsey" as source claiming that Apple would release a separate "Social" app to consolidate users' social networking services, similar to Yahoo's OneConnect. That app was supposed to allow users to "broadcast what music you’re currently listening to" and also "share your music with people on your network," something iTunes already does. iTunes was also said to be adding support for sorting iOS apps in listings "alphabetically, by genre, date added, and of course, custom arrangement."

In January, BGR posted another exclusive about "more Apple tablet-related news" involving a "solid Apple / Verizon connection," and invited users to "use your imaginations and let them run wild in the comments." In June, another exclusive cited a "highly placed source of ours" who reported that Verizon was currently testing CDMA iPads. The article added, "we’re probably going to see not only an iPhone but also iPad on Verizon very soon, huh?"

Apple's public relations also recently denied a purported email exchange between a customer and Steve Jobs that was published by the site as being "100% legitimate." The most sensationalist remarks attributed to Jobs, telling a customer to "Retire, relax, enjoy your family. It is just a phone. Not worth it," were mistakenly attributed to Jobs on accident.

Jobs himself recently complained about the shift from responsible journalism and toward the printing of personal email exchanges as news in a public interview at All Things Digital, where he said, "I don't want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers."