Amazon to give away free digital copies of CDs purchased over the past 15 years

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, January 11, 2013

Fear not if you haven’t finished ripping all of your old CDs into MP3 files yet…

Yesterday Amazon, one of the world’s largest online retailers, announced the launch of AutoRip, a program that will automatically give customers free digital copies of the CDs they have purchased from the retailer as far back as 1998. The music will be added to the user’s Cloud account, which can then be streamed on computers and mobile devices and downloaded to Amazon devices like the Kindle Fire.

“What would you say if you bought music CDs from a company 15 years ago, and then 15 years later that company licensed the rights from the record companies to give you the MP3 versions of those CDs … and then to top it off, did that for you automatically and for free? Well, starting today, it’s available to all of our customers — past, present, and future — at no cost,” Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder and CEO, commented yesterday about the release.

Currently 50,000 of the most popular albums that the company has sold over the past 15 years are available via AutoRip. These albums include “21″ by Adele; “Overexposed” by Maroon 5; “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd and “Thriller” by Michael Jackson.

“When we picked those 50,000 titles, we focused on having a substantial majority of our physical CD sales covered. People will be exposed to Cloud Player and our digital music offering, which is a good thing. We want to take this global,” stated Steve Boom, head of digital music at Amazon.

Amazon hopes that this move will make it more competitive with iTunes, which continues to dominate the digital music marketplace. While Amazon has been selling MP3 downloads since 2007, it only makes up about 15 percent of the market share. iTunes, however, accounts for more than half of the current market share of digital downloads. Amazon’s MP3 store also only carries about 21 million songs online compared to the 26 million that iTunes has available.

There is also speculation that if this program is successful Amazon would extend it to other products, such as books, where Amazon is a major market leader with its Kindle software and tablets.

“It would even be profitable for Amazon.com to pay publishers a subsidy to transition all the books purchased on Amazon.com to Kindle books,” said Scott Devitt, an analyst at Morgan Stanley. “Having a digital library that is accessible only on the Kindle platform essentially locks a customer into the Kindle ecosystem forever.

“If executed, it would possibly be the largest coup in company history,” he added.

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