When I was a kid, I used to place a handheld Panasonic cassette tape recorder (with a condensor mic!) next to a transistor radio to tape songs off of KYNO-AM. Not yet having the the money to go out and buy every single song I liked; these recordings were key to how I connected deeply to pop music, on which I’ve since spent a huge amount of my disposable (and not so disposable) income.
Little did I know, that in the eyes of the RIAA, my 10-year-old self was a thief, and they were itching for a way to keep me from stealing their songs. And now, with the advent of digital radio, they may have found a way.
Last week, after intense lobbying from the RIAA, a Congressperson introduced a bill that, among other things, threatens to keep you from recording individual songs from digital radio stations. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out:
H.R. 4861 is chilling in at least three ways:
- If this becomes law, you would need a license from the FCC to build a radio receiver and be forced to incorporate DRM if your receiver has a record button. In other words, satisfying the Code of Federal Regulations would come before satisfying your customers.
- Notice that “unauthorized” copying and redistribution will be prohibited, rather than unlawful copying and redistribution. Translation: unless you get permission, it’s forbidden, even if it would be a fair use or perfectly legal under the AHRA.
- The bill says that the restrictions “shall not be inconsistent with the customary use of broadcast content by consumers to the extent such use is consistent with the purposes of this act and other applicable law.” As we’ve discussed before, this freezes fair use based on yesterday’s “customary uses,” rather than leaving room for tomorrow’s innovators. Remember, time shifting with your VCR was not “customary” in 1976, nor was platform-shifting CDs to your iPod in 1997.
They go on to list a whole set of restrictions about whichthe RIAA hilariously says “appropriately balance the interests of users in recording material off-the-air while protecting the interests of the music industry….”
My favorites: a 30-minute minimum recording time (though I wonder what would happen if you just unplugged your radio) and you would not be allowed to break up the recording into individual songs. (Or edit out the commercials, of course.)
Imagine a little kid nowadays just discovering the variety of music that digital radio has to offer. Now imagine that kid never getting a chance to record her favorite songs from the radio: a time-honored tradition just shot dead in the water because of a few short-sighted greedheads.