Copyright Law And The Assault On Innovation

New legislation currently pending before the Senate would greatly expand copyright law in an effort by the music industry to stifle yet another area of innovation:

Satellite and Internet radio services would be required to restrict listeners’ ability to record and play back individual songs, under new legislation introduced this week in the U.S. Senate.

The rules are embedded in a copyright bill called the Platform Equality and Remedies for Rights Holders in Music Act, or Perform Act, which was reintroduced Thursday by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). They have pitched the proposal, which first emerged in an earlier version last spring, as a means to level the playing field among “radio-like services” available via cable, satellite and the Internet.

By their description, that means requiring all such services to pay “fair market value” for the use of copyright music libraries. The bill’s sponsors argue the existing regime must change because it applies different royalty rates, depending on what medium transmits the music.

But the measure goes further, taking aim at portable satellite radio devices, such as XM Satellite Radio’s Inno player, that allow consumers to store copies of songs originally played on-air. The proposal says that all audio services–Webcasters included–would be obligated to implement “reasonably available and economically reasonable” copy-protection technology aimed at preventing “music theft” and restricting automatic recording.

“New radio services are allowing users to do more than simply listen to music,” Feinstein said in a statement. “What was once a passive listening experience has turned into a forum where users can record, manipulate, collect and create personalized music libraries.”

Excuse me, Senator Feinstein, but I’m pretty sure you were alive in the 1980s. Back then, we used cassette recorders to, effectively, accomplish the same thing that XM’s Inno player would — record songs off the radio so we could listen to them on our portable music players. What the heck is the difference today ?

Perhaps I’m being cynical, but I think the only difference is the amount of money the RIAA is contributing to political campaigns.

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  • Chris Byrne

    The audio home recording act very clearly spells out that these activities are legal; there is no way they can describe this as anything but a profit grab, and I dont think it will get very far.

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  • James Coleman

    I am totally in favor of the Perform Act. Internet piracy has grown to huge proportions. It must be stopped. The Perform Act with the help of the company located in Santa Cruz, California, will stop the illegal downloading of streaming audio files. This company called, “Media Rights Technologies” (MRT, has come up with the solution to the Perform Act. MRT’s Secure X1 technology will completely illeminate the illegal downloading of streaming audio files from the Internet.