Apple is reportedly in negotiations with music labels with a view to changing policies on their online music store that would allow consumers who have purchased iTunes tracks to access and download those tracks multiple times on different devices, all under the umbrella of using an Apple ID (via Bloomberg). The move would mean that iTunes music would essentially fall under the same rules as apps i.e. buy once and download on any device as many times as you want with your Apple ID without paying any extra.
According to the report, the major music labels involved in the negotiations are Universal, Sony, Warner and EMI. If Apple manages to get the music labels on board then it would mean that users would essentially have a permanent backup of their digital content purchased from iTunes that could be accessed from anywhere with their Apple ID. The Apple ID of course holds the purchase history of a customer.
This is a clever approach by Apple as it means that, rather than storing many gigabytes of consumers’ music data on their servers, they are simply changing the terms and conditions of the iTunes Store to allow re-downloading of tracks that have already been purchased. It is still unclear however, if this type of agreement would extend to music tracks that the consumer owns, but have not been purchased through iTunes.
What has also not been established is whether Apple simply view this as a ‘music data backup service’ (perhaps managed through MobileMe) or whether they will make it easy to re-download tracks on demand though a cloud streaming service. This would obviously depend on the terms of the agreement with the music labels, and how Apple designs the user interface for the new service.
The report also suggests that the $99 fee for MobileMe would be removed and that, under a revamped service, users will be able to store data such as ”photos, contacts, e-mail and other content on Apple’s servers“. Music is notably not mentioned in this group.
Being honest, the current method of 5 authorized devices is a bit of a pain in the arse, especially when moving from Mac to Mac. Combine this with the fact that any lost music cannot be re-downloaded free of charge and any changes that Apple makes to the T & C of the iTunes Store will be very welcome.