XM Satellite Radio vs Songwriters Guild

This piece of news is not directly Bluegrass related, but I thought it might be of interest to some of our readers. It seems the Songwriters Guild of America has joined forces with the RIAA in a legal battle against XM Satellite Radio. They are arguing that devices such as the Pioneer Inno and Samsung Helix allow users to unfairly make recordings of songs being streamed by the satellite radio company. The SGA is calling this an:

illegial download service disguised in broadcast radio clothing

and has gone on to accuse the company of attempting to avoid download royalty payments.

XM Satellite Radio plans to use the Audio Home Recording Act, or AHRA, from 1992 in it’s defense. The AHRA, argues the SGA, was originally tailored towards DAT players, and does not cover more modern devices.

The devices appear to be a world apart from DAT machines, and are essentially MP3 players, which do not fall within the AHRA.

But the AHRA was a focal point in a 1999 case, RIAA vs. Diamond Multimedia, opening the door for an entire generation of portable MP3 devices.

I’m not sure the RIAA and the SGA really understand the new digital marketplace they’ve found themselves in. I’m not entirely clear as to the association of XM with Pioneer or Samsung, or any other device maker for that matter, but one thing I do know. A lawsuit against XM isn’t going to stop people from recording satellite radio if they are so inclined. It will only drive the price up for the consumer, which could in turn lead to more consumers downloading music illegially from the internet. I’m not saying it’s right on the consumer’s part to make copies of music they haven’t purchased, I’m just suggesting that a lawsuit against the broadcaster isn’t the answer.

I’d like to see the songwriters get compensated for their work as much as they would, but I’m not convinced this is the way to resolve the issue. I know a lot of bluegrass fans subscribe to XM Radio and I’d not like to see the subscription price raised because of lawsuits.

Any thoughts?