Under The Microscope

Getting Struck By A Balance

MP3 Is CommunismThere’s a bill before the Senate right now, dubbed the PERFORM Act, which may be of interest to some of our customers. In addition to setting a new low for acronyms (PERFORM stands for “Platform Equality and Remedies for Rights Holders in Music Act of 2006″), PERFORM has the potential to really cause problems for Nicecast. Ostensibly, the bill is designed to make satellite radio (namely, Sirius and XM) pay for a distribution license, not a performance license, because some devices enable the recording of this digital content.

On this front, one particular quote from Senator Feinstein stuck out at me.

“I believe that the PERFORM Act would help strike a balance between fostering the development of new technologies and ensuring that songwriters and performers continue to be fairly compensated for their works.”

That doesn’t exactly jibe with this article, on artists suing labels over the labels’ failure to properly compensate them for digital downloads. There’s plenty to debate on those issues. You’ve been able to record pretty high quality content from FM raio stations for years and years now. As well, should the mere fact that some devices will enable recording mean these stations should need a distribution license? (I’d say it does not).

However, the real issue for us is what the EFF uncovered, that this bill may ban MP3 streaming as products like Nicecast enable. As the EFF article notes:

“If the PERFORM Act becomes law, 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. So much for great time-shifting technologies like Streamripper and RadioLover.”

And so much for broadcasting applications like Nicecast, unless we license and include DRM broadcasting ability. That drives up our costs, and provides no real benefit to broadcasters or listeners, so it’s something we’re understandably loathe to do. Both the ethics and legality of using applications like Streamripper to record individual MP3 files have always been in question, but should the onus of preventing infringement be on the broadcaster? We certainly don’t think so. Time will tell what will happen with the law and to Nicecast.

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