Will record labels control digital-music lockers?

A fitting anthem for Michael Robertson these days would be The Rolling Stones’ hit, Get Off of My Cloud.For nearly a decade, Robertson, the often controversial cofounder of MP3.com and Linspire, has toiled to store music in the cloud, the term used to describe the seemingly limitless amount of data and services accessible with a Web browser. But in the past, Robertson’s efforts have led him into epic legal battles with the music industry. That’s where he finds himself once again. In November, EMI filed a copyright suit against him and his music service, MP3tunes.com.More recently, Robertson has had to watch competitors generate headlines with an idea he helped pioneer. On Monday, Lala.com launched a service that enables customers to upload songs into digital music lockers (or the cloud) and then stream the tracks to Web-connected devices. Before launching, Lala obtained licenses from each of the top four recording companies. The differences between MP3tunes and Lala are many but chief among them is this: Robertson doesn’t believe services such as his are obligated to obtain licenses to help consumers store legally owned music.

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