Remember that election last November? You know, the one that signaled the need for change. Well, apparently that change doesn’t include taking a more enlightened approach to legislation involving new technology. Earlier this month a bipartisan group of Senators lead by Diane Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a bill that would create a variety of new restrictions for both Internet broadcasters and listeners.
Bill S.256, also known as the “Platform Equality and Remedies for Rights Holders in Music Act” (PERFORM), would, among other things, require that Internet broadcasters protect their audio streams with DRM technology. Apparently the RIAA has convinced Feinstein that unencrypted audio streams are contributing to the global piracy problem.
In a world where just about every song ever recorded is available from any number of online sources, it’s hard to believe that a significant number of listeners are sitting around waiting for their favorite song to play on some Internet station so they can record the stream, cut the song out of the stream, tag it, then transfer it to their iPod. No, something tells me that people who don’t want to pay for songs have more efficient ways of stealing music.
It’s unfathomable that lawmakers would spend time attempting to cripple a new industry that is still in its infancy. Worse yet, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this bill. It was introduced last year and ultimately failed. The fact that it’s been reintroduced is a testament to the RIAA’s persistence as a lobbying group.
It’s conceivable that, if passed, the law would eliminate a large number of existing Internet broadcasters. If the cost of investing in proprietary DRM streaming systems doesn’t run broadcasters out of business, the new royalty and licensing fees just might. Keep in mind that Internet broadcasters are already paying the same licensing fees that terrestrial broadcasters pay, as well as additional fees that terrestrial broadcasters don’t pay.
Then there are the issues related to the use of DRM. Since there’s no such thing as an open DRM standard broadcasters will likely pick and choose from the motley assortment of available options. Not only will this create confusion among consumers, but it will likely leave many users out in the cold. Very few DRM schemes are cross-platform, and the ones that are (FairPlay) would likely not be available to Internet broadcasters.
Chances are that many broadcasters would select Microsoft’s DRM system, effectively turning Internet radio into a Windows-only medium (and ironically leaving Zune users out of the loop).
If I didn’t know better I might think that these politicians and lobbyists were actively trying to kill Internet radio. If this bill passes they’ll be off to a good start.
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