Well, that was quick. Last night, CNET claimed that Amazon was preparing to launch a feature called Auto Rip that would automatically add MP3s to people’s cloud lockers when they bought CDs from its site. Now the feature – actually called AutoRip – is live.

“Buy a CD, instantly get the MP3 version for FREE,” is Amazon’s easy-t0-grasp tagline for the new feature, which has gone live on its US store only for now.

It doesn’t work for every CD though: just the “thousands” of CDs that have been (presumably) licensed for the programme. A quick search on the store reveals just over 30k main albums that are AutoRip-eligible from a range of popular artists.

TechCrunch reports that EMI, Sony and Warner are all on board for launch along with hundreds of indie labels, a full set of major publishers and thousands of small publishers. No Universal? That’s intriguing.

A logo – a pair of arrows – will be used to show which CDs are AutoRip-eligible on the store, and Amazon is applying the feature to previous purchases too, stretching back to 1998.

“Since [1998], we’ve sold hundreds of millions of CDs to tens of millions of customers – a lot, a lot of music,” Amazon’s Steve Boom tells TechCrunch, adding that the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan are high on Amazon’s priority list to get AutoRip in 2013.

What happens if people buy a CD then return it? Amazon has thought of that, and there isn’t a loophole:

“If you download any of the tracks on the MP3 version of the album from your Cloud Player library (including if you have enabled auto-download to a device and any of the tracks on the MP3 version of the album auto-download), you will be considered to have purchased the MP3 version of the album from the Amazon MP3 Store and we will charge your credit card (or other payment method) for the then-current price of the MP3 version of the album (which will be non-refundable and may be a higher price than the physical version of the album).”

As we said in our post this morning, AutoRip has potential, because it’s targeting people whose digital music journey doesn’t start with a hard-drive full of digital music files, but instead those with shelves full of CDs – a number of which may have been bought from Amazon.

The downside? If you, like us, used Amazon as your ‘go-to’ service to buy CDs for your dad, mum, nan etc when birthdays or Christmas came around, you could be seeing some interesting stuff popping into your Amazon locker…

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