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?

  • Cranky

    Where does it stop? I assume that XM (and Sirius) pay the appropriate fees and royalities to broadcast the music they do, and that the RIAA and SGA granted their consent for these services to broadcast in the way that they do. It is not the broadcaster’s responsibility to monitor the actions of their listeners. I suppose they are concerned that these new devices will be able to make lossless copies of songs. While that may be true, one could also make next-to-lossless copies pretty easily (and no one but Golden Ears McGee would know the difference). Maybe they should require a “bump” over the first and last five seconds of every song they play: “Welcome to XM Channel 65, home of the most awesomely musical music available on satellite! As soon as I’m done talking, you can enjoy the rest of this awesomely awesome song. Unauthorizedrecordingreproductionanddistributionstrictlyprohibited.”

  • Providing a means to download and/or downloading without compensation to the artist, composer or label is certainly a moral violation, if not an outright violation of the law. Using music or any itellectual property will eventually result in less availability.

  • Cranky

    God forbid we actually “use music or any intellectual property.” (Ok, ok, I don’t think you meant what it sounds like you’re saying). But perhaps WYEP and all other radio stations, be it sattelite, internet, or traditional should shut down because they provide me the means to record music without compensation. Maybe we should ban all recording devices because I can illegaly record copyrighted material. Maybe we should ban cars because I can break the speed limit in them.

    I’ll have to do more research, but hasn’t there been several laws already that deal with this? Back when cassettes first became popular, wasn’t there legislation passed to allow fair use recording of a radio broadcast? Then, as the original post alluded to, provisions were made for DATs? No one (in their right mind anyway) is suggesting its ok to record off of XM and then post an hours worth of programming on my website and make it available to download. But I believe previous legislation allows for the free recording of broadcasts for personal use – that’s why TiVo is legal. And I think the principal here is the same. I may really like a particular program on XM, but it doesn’t fit into my schedule, so I want to record it (using the best technology available) and replay it at a a time that’s more convenient for me.

  • Technology is a two edged sword. One edge definitely makes music more accessible to consumers and broadens the market for artist and songwriters. The other edge allows consumers to store and reproduce music as many times as they like with out compensating the creator of the music. It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s simply impossible to tell if the good out weighs the bad. Many argue that mediums such as satellite radio and internet downloading sites open up new markets for music not heard on mainstream radio and therefore benefits artist and songwriters. There is no doubt some truth in that. It also makes it possible ?¢‚Ǩ?ìin theory?¢‚Ǩ¬ù at least, a song could be played on XM radio one time and then everyone in the world can have a free copy therefore putting the artist and songwriter out of business. Only a couple years ago before the lawsuits against Napster and others almost no one I know had a problem with illegal downloading. I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m talking about your everyday honest average citizen. They simply were not aware that it was illegal. Those lawsuits against illegal down loading not only made folks like Napster pay songwriters their due wage but educated the public. I became an XM subscriber so I can hear bluegrass music all the time in my vehicle and I love it. But the new Pioneer device is portable and you can store up to 50 hours of programming. You can also plug it in to your computer and down load all the songs you recorded. I understand how consumers want ?¢‚Ǩ?ìfair use?¢‚Ǩ¬ù of the music they pay for but it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s pretty na?ɬØve to think that some of those consumer won?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t share their music with friends and family. There will also be those rodents who stick it on the internet for everybody to download. They are probably the same people who spend their time creating viruses and spam just to make life difficult for someone else.
    For those who don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t know, songwriters, especially songwriters who don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t perform their own music are already at the bottom of the food chain in the music business. In the music industry they are usually the most dedicated to the music and are seldom out to get rich. Only a handful make a good living at it. It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s not right that corporations like Pioneer and XM make millions all the while ?¢‚Ǩ?ìpotentially?¢‚Ǩ¬ù putting songwriters and non-mainstream artist out of a job. I heard Tim O?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢Brian say on KET a few weeks ago that he makes approximately half his living as a performing artist and half as a songwriter. These things definitely have an impact on bluegrass artist and writers.

    What?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s the solution? Who know?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s for sure but I do know this. Corporations such as Pioneer, Sony and countless others are being very short sighted. Songs are the fuel these devices run on and it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s foolish to put the creators of that ?¢‚Ǩ?ìfuel?¢‚Ǩ¬ù out of business. When they run out of new songs there?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ll be no need for mp3 recorders. In fact corporations such as XM and Pioneer wouldn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t be in business at all if not for the songwriters. Who would need a receiver or speakers or any of the billions of dollars of equipment manufactured to record and reproduce music if there isn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t any new music being created. I know that?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s stretching reality but there is truth in it. It may sound crazy to some but I personally believe the manufactures should pay a fee to songwriting PRO?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s for every recording and reproduction device they sell. In their own best interest they should be feeding the creators of music instead of trying to starve them to death.