No Apple iCloud for UK before 2012

Apple's iCloud music locker service won't launch in the UK until at least 2012 according to a spokesman from the Performing Rights Society (PRS).

Seen by some as a sweeping amnesty for music pirates, Apple's iTunes in the cloud offering, which launches in the US in July, will allow users to store music and other media they have purchased on up to ten device, all fed from a massive Apple data centre.

But perhaps the most extraordinary part of the iCloud service is Music Match which allows tracks not purchased by Apple - and let's be honest here, that includes those tracks which have been acquired by illegal means - to be matched against Apple's vast library of high quality recordings. A new version of those tracks will be added to the user's library and made available in exactly the same way as those legitimately purchased through iTunes.

Even tracks which are not included in the Apple database can be stored and accessed without question.

Details of the deals Apple has struck with the Big Four US music companies have not been made public, and probably never will, but they reportedly run into the hundreds of millions and took months of negotiations to hammer out.

Our guess is that Apple will pay the owners of the music in question a small amount of cash each time Music Match replaces a track. It's a brilliant compromise on Apple's part. The music industry is happy because it is making money out of pirated music for the first time ever, recouping some of its costs on a practise which, until now, generated zero income and threatened to undermine the entire industry.

Apple is happy because, although it will probably make zilch from those millions of $25 a year Music Match subscriptions, instead passing the cash on to the music industry, the service will drive sales of its mobile gadgets to unprecedented levels.

The music industry may be hopelessly out of touch, but it isn't stupid. Apple has put in place a mechanism whereby it indemnifies the recording industry against losses made to pirates and generates increased sales through iTunes, which is already the biggest music retailer on the planet by an order of magnitude.

So why, when Apple and Big Music can strike such a mutually beneficial deal in the USA in a few months is the UK's Performing Rights Society, which purports to protect the interests of musicians and composers, throwing a spanner in the works?

We'd be willing to bet that, after months of pointless negotiations, Apple strikes an identical deal with the UK music industry it has with its UK counterpart. Now we know that international licensing is a legal minefield, and that copyright laws have subtle differences depending on which country you pay your iTunes bill in, but isn't all of this heel-dragging doing little more than frustrating UK music fans and line the pockets of the law firms which work for the PRS and its ilk?

For its part, an unidentified PRS spokesman told the Telegraph that talks about iCloud were at "a very early stage".

“The licensing team at the PRS have started talks with Apple, but are a long way off from any deals being signed. It is very much the early stages of the negotiations and is similar to the launch of iTunes - which began in the US and took a while to roll out to other countries,” the spokesman said.

Wouldn't it just be easier, and quicker, for the head honcho at the PRS to phone up his contemporaries at the MIAA and say, "Look this deal you did with Apple... is it any good? Will my members be able to make a buck out of it? Oh... and you say we'll be able to claw back a few quid from all of those toe-rags who've been stealing our stuff with impunity for more than a decade? Sounds brilliant. I'll kick all of these bloodsucking lawyers out of my office right now and sign the contract. Bye now. Have a nice day."

If only the world were that simple, we'd all be enjoying iCloud in one month rather than six.