According to today’s LA Times the RIAA is suing XM over it’s new device which allows subscribers to record up to 50 hours of XM broadcast on a portable player. It’s sort of like TiVo for radio, but it’s also the digital equivalent of what many of us did as kids back in the pre-digital era.
You’d think that the battle against taping music off of the radio would have been settled long ago but, as we all know, content is so much more valuable once it’s been digitized. Apparently all pre-existing licensing and copyright law must be abandoned in an effort to save content from
pirates consumers who simply want to time-shift and consume content on their own schedule.
If you’ve been following the development of Satellite Radio this new XM device may sound familiar. Sirius has a device that does the exact same thing.
So why isn’t the RIAA suing Sirius? It’s not because they’re afraid of Howard Stern. It’s because they’ve already negotiated undisclosed terms with Sirius. In other words, Sirius has agreed to pay the RIAA’s ransom and they’re now free to market this frightening new technology which we’re being lead to believe will enable a new era of piracy (also known as recording music from the radio).
So why haven’t XM and the RIAA come to terms? Insiders have indicated that the RIAA rejected a generous offer from XM to pay the labels $18 per device. The RIAA is said to be holding out for more control over the actual functionality of the device.
The interesting thing about this suit is that XM is now claiming they don’t owe the RIAA anything and that their payment of the standard performance royalties (the publishing license fee paid by all radio stations) should suffice. If a court were to back XM up on this claim that would be really bad news for the RIAA.
As is usually the case with these sorts of stories, the best information is buried in the final paragraph of the LA Times story:
“When I was the head of the RIAA, I knew that trying to regulate technology is not a good strategy,” said Hilary Rosen, who now is a consultant to XM. “In the end it was always better to get as much money as you could upfront.”
Excuse me? Hillary Rosen is now doing battle with the RIAA?! Last time we heard about Hillary Rosen she was planning to help “reform” copyright laws in Iraq. This is turning out to be a lot like professional wrestling where the villains and heros are likely to switch allegiance at any time. Who knows what might happen next?