Business News Digital Labels & Publishers Top Stories

Google denies Parlophone is boycotting its locker

By | Published on Tuesday 5 February 2013


Google has denied a report that the Parlophone Label Group – so those former EMI labels not absorbed by Universal Music last year and still awaiting sell-off to meet Universal’s competition regulator commitments – is boycotting the web giant’s digital locker service.

As previously reported, Google Play initially launched in the US without any music companies on board, relying on the principle that in most countries (though not the UK) basic cloud-storage of music files is possible without a licence from rights owners, because users are simply exercising their private copy right when they upload digital music files to a Google server.

However, Google wanted to add so called scan-and-match to its locker service, where the web firm will scan your MP3 collection and automatically make copies of tracks it already has stored on its system available to you without any need to upload them. Apple entered the digital locker market with that extra functionality. Because with scan-and-match the service provider, rather than the user, does the copying, a licence is required.

Google added scan-and-match to its digital locker late last year, arriving to the UK market with the extra functionality already in place. All three majors were on board for launch, but did that include the in-limbo bit of the now defunct EMI, which includes the former Parlophone UK division, the Chrysalis recordings catalogue and various other former EMI units in Europe?

Well, the Telegraph yesterday cited sources at the Parlophone Label Group who allegedly told the broadsheet that the former EMI division hadn’t signed up to the Google Play digital locker, and that it didn’t intend to because bosses there weren’t convinced the web giant was offering a reasonable deal.

However, Google has denied that Parlophone is boycotting its digital locker, and Billboard says it managed to buy tracks released by the former EMI label via the Google Play download store, and to then transfer them over into a Google locker.

So was there any truth to the rumours reported by the Telegraph? Are bosses at Parlophone, still awaiting news on their fate as Universal decides who to sell the company to, reviewing all the digital deals they’ve inherited from what was the EMI Group, and questioning the benefits of some of them?

And are the former major label execs in charge adjusting to the prospect of leading a smaller music rights company where perhaps the big digital players are less willing to bend over backwards? Perhaps – if an independent Parlophone Label Group is a possible outcome of Universal’s sale – the company should be filling out a Merlin application firm, learning how to hate the all new MySpace, and getting some “Justin Timberlake’s a cunt” t-shirts printed up (something I’m expecting every indie label employee to wear at the BRITs later this month). Maybe. Maybe not.

Or perhaps if Parlophone bosses want a technology company closer to home to vent about, they could try BT instead. The phone firm has just launched its own cloud-storage service, bundled in with its broadband subscriptions.

Although it isn’t a music-specific service, and doesn’t offer scan-and-match, it does tell users approximately how many songs they could fit in each kind of locker. Except, of course, there is no private copying right in the UK (not yet anyway), so if those songs originated on CD (as many probably did) BT customers would be infringing copyright by storing music in their BT digital locker. So there you go Parlophone – get angry about that.