Satellite and internet radio recording: ‘could’ versus ‘should’

After nearly three years of blogging, I’m beginning to appreciate one of the ways it keeps you honest: your past projections and predictions are still there to haunt you when (to mix metaphors) the chickens come home to roost. I don’t think what I wrote about ‘martini media’ one or two years ago was wrong exactly, but some of it reads as slightly naïve.

Early last year, for example, I got enthusiastic about the TimeTrax software for recording satellite radio in the US — particularly the feature that allowed users to instruct your software to record every track by a particular artist broadcast on any station (to be fair, my enthusiasm only echoed Wired’s).

Now a couple of US senators are backing an act to constrain this ‘ripping’ kind of recording from the radio. However, their act does sanction some degree of ‘time-shifting’ recording for larger bundles of programming. From Senator Feinstein’s web site,

if a listener chooses to automatically record a news station every morning at 9:00; a jazz station every afternoon at 2:00; a blues station every Friday at 3:00; and a talk radio show every Saturday at 4:00; that would be allowable. In addition, that listener could then use their recording device to move these programs so that each program of the same genre are back to back.

What a listener cannot do is set a recording device to find all the Frank Sinatra songs being played on the radio-service and only record those songs. By making these distinctions, this bill supports new business models and technologies without harming the songwriters and performers in the process.

Which seems pretty sensible to me. There are a range of technologies to offer what appear as consumer-friendly innovations in digital media recording and manipulation. Most obviously, the (peer-to-peer) technology clearly exists to make all recorded music available on-demand to everyone at near-zero cost. But doing that without some alternative compensation system for music producers would not be sustainable.

There are good and bad ways to place constraints on what is done with technology, recognising that the range of things that can be done are not always as desirable as they may seem at first. The way DRM is being implemented is one of the bad ways. Acts like this one seem to be better. Though I may see things differently, with the benefit of hindsight, in a year or two’s time.

[Update, 2 May 02006: “in a year or two’s time”; famous last words. Three days later, I’ve just come across this article which has a very different perspective. It focuses not on the time-shifting versus cherry-picking issue, but on the claim by the Electronic Frontier Foundation that the act could mean that, “Webcasters who use the statutory SoundExchange licenses to play music would have to give up MP3 streaming in favor of a DRM-restricted, proprietary formats that impose restrictions on any recordings made”. I believe that US regulations and royalty arrangements are different from those in the UK for both terrestrial and internet radio. But if it’s true, as the article asserts, that the new act “will kill net radio”, then obviously I’d withdraw my earlier supportive comments.]

Thanks to Digital Music News for the source of this story (unfortunately, owing to the way they manage their URIs, this link is liable to rot).

One thought on “Satellite and internet radio recording: ‘could’ versus ‘should’

  1. The music industry is already based upon sensitive balances of economic and artistic forces. Misused intrusion of technology in the music industry will already make matters worse. So what is required are stringent laws to curb music piracy in its first shoots . May god bless all music lovers.

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