RIAA Is Lobbying For DAB Radio Copy Protection

The Recording Industry Association of America is lobbying for digital rights management features to be incorporated in digital radio, and Mitch Bainwol, CEO, intends to make the issue the focus of the forthcoming Congressional Hearing on Digital Copyrights on 16th June.

“We’re in favour of HD radio,” Bainwol said, referring to Digital Radio, “It offers great benefits for consumers and everyone involved, but we’re not blind to several concerns. Someone could cherry-pick songs off a broadcast and fill up a personal library and then post it on Kazaa.”

Therefore, to prevent this evil, the RIAA are keen to have a copy protection scheme in place to prevent digital copies of digital radio broadcasts. The Consumer Association are not pleased, however.

Many are concerned that the RIAA are trying to removing another freedom from the consumer. Besides, no DRM scheme will currently stop people from making high quality analogue copies of music and then re-digitising them. The RIAA, in it’s fervour to prevent perfect digital copies of music seem to have forgotten one thing: digital radio is compressed, it’s not possible to create a “perfect” copy. On top of this the act recompressing to make an MP3 or Windows Media file, transcoding, generally makes audio and video quality even worse. A digital radio copy will never have the same quality as a CD recording.

The technology behind digital radio broadcasting in the US comes from iBiquity, who are obviously willing to build in a copy protection scheme if it brings them more revenue, but even they can’t see the point … at the moment: “If there’s a consensus among the groups, we’re willing to go along,” said Jeff Jury, COO of the Baltimore-based company, “But given the state of the technology, it’s premature to worry about this.”

By imposing a DRM system on digital radio, the RIAA can remove the consumer’s ability to time shift or archive radio programmes. Also, it some feel that it marks a shift towards preventing consumers owning music, instead they will have to rent it, paying time and again to hear tracks.

Michael Petricone, technology vice president at the Consumer Electronics Association commented: “Our position on this is that there has been no demonstration that there’s a problem. It’s not clear what the RIAA is talking about. Do they want a broadcast flag or some limit on recording material? We regard a consumer’s ability to record off the radio as a pretty fundamental right. They’ve sold a half-million digital radios in Great Britain over the past five years, and this problem hasn’t come up. It’s premature to ask the FCC for restrictions on devices for a problem that might not exist.”


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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?