You may have heard about Amazon's new Cloud Drive service (basically, some free storage, like Dropbox, with more available if you buy music from Amazon, or you can just buy more). One of the things different from other services is that Amazon has added a web-based player so you can listen to your music from the Cloud Drive.
For me, personally, there's no real upside. All my music fits on my iPhone, so I always have all of it with me at all times. And I can just as easily back it up to Dropbox or MobileMe if I'm just looking for off-site backup.
But for people with more music than their music player holds, I can see this as being something of interest (especially if you have an Android phone without much storage, as there is an Android app to play your music in addition to the web-based player).
Of course, if you have access to the disk, there's no reason you can't already play your music from one of the other services – double-click and it should open in iTunes, QuickTime, or some other player, depending on the file type and what you have loaded. Amazon has probably done some optimization for their web player, but I don't know for sure.
What I do know is that, if you've already paid for this music, you shouldn't have to pay again. But according to this article at CNet.com, the record companies think this violates their "rights" – and they want someone to pay them for making the music available over the cloud.
So how is this different than an external disk? That's Amazon's reasoning – while the rumor mills say Google and Apple are still in negotiations for these "rights," Amazon is taking the position that where these songs are stored is nothing more than just another medium attached to your computer.
I have to agree. As long as you don't share access to the music with the rest of the world, how is it any different than any other external device? Why on earth would the record companies deserve any more money just because you're playing your music from a different kind of mass storage?
Sure, they got away with it when they went from vinyl to CD – but you were actually getting the media as well (and without any proof or requirement that you had the song previously). But this isn't getting it from someone in a different physical format – this is you making a legitimate backup copy and playing off the copy. So why would any record label have the "right" to charge me for this?
Make no mistake – I don't advocate stealing music. All the music I have was paid for (or was legitimately given away by the artists). Most of it came from CDs; the rest from iTunes or in a few cases, vinyl. I didn't pay again just to rip them to my computer so I could put them on my iPhone or listen on my computer. And if I decide to use a service such as Cloud Drive, I don't see any reason to pay any sort of "fee" to any record label just to backup my music off-site.
So good for Amazon for standing up to these guys. Sure, they're doing it for their own self-serving reasons, but it's still probably going to cost them some cash, in lawyers' fees if nothing else.