Yesterday, Amazon surprised pretty much everyone by being the first big web company to rollout digital "lockers" that allow streaming of your personal music collection from the cloud. Google and Apple have been rumored to be in a race to offer consumers similar services, but Amazon got the jump on both of them. This is because the companies have a fundamentally different view over what is required to enable cloud streaming: Google and Apple appear to accept the recording industry's assertion that it has new rights over music once it has been stored on the Web. Amazon thinks the labels should mind their own damn business.

"Cloud Player is an application that lets customers manage and play their own music. It's like any number of existing media management applications. We do not need a license to make Cloud Player available," Amazon spokeswoman Cat Griffin said to Ars Technica, speaking on the company's new Web player that enables streaming. Amazon's director of music, Craig Pape, expressed the same sentiment to Billboard.

"We don't believe we need licenses to store the customers' files. We look at it the same way as if someone bought an external hard drive and copy files on there for backup."

Google and Apple have yet to comment on the matter, but it's well known that both companies have been hampered by negotiations with major labels to get new licenses for their cloud services. If they were as surprised by Amazon's move to bypass the recording industry as the industry was itself, the release of Cloud Drive could have significant implications for their own still-gestating services, not to mention any ongoing licensing negotiations.

"We hope that they'll reach a new license deal,but we're keeping all of our legal options open," said Sony Music spokesman Liz Young of Amazon, in a thinly veiled threat of a law suit. Another recording industry source said he was "somewhat stunned" by Amazon's rollout. But what rights do the record companies really have in this matter? What's really so stunning?

Amazon's logic seems sound: If I can move the music I own to and from any physical drive or device that I please, and play it from any of those drives or devices, why should the rules be any different when it comes to online storage? Or is there a legal difference between a portable hard drive and a remote server? Should there be one?

We'll be pondering the issue. Now that Amazon has thrown down the gauntlet, it isn't going to go away anytime soon. Let us know your thoughts.

[Reuters, Ars Technica, Billboard.biz]