Friday, May 26, 2006

More on XM Radio Recorders

David Pogue has a review of XM radio recorders in today's NY Times (free reg. req.). He makes mention of the lawsuits in his review:

Now, not everybody is happy about this feature of the Helix and its Pioneer sibling. XM, which was largely responsible for the design of both players, has been sued by the increasingly busy lawyers of the Recording Industry Association of America. They're calling the design of these players a tool for copyright infringement.

Truth is, on the pure silliness scale, the association's case ranks right up there with Monty Python. You've already paid to listen to these XM songs; all the Helix adds is the ability to time-shift and replay them, just as people have done with audiocassettes for decades. Once you record a song to the Helix's memory, that's where it stays. You can't burn it to a CD or transfer it to a computer; you can't move, copy or distribute it in any way.

Now, that you can't get it off is incidental to the suit. As I posted before, the suit focuses on whether the appropriate license that XM pays is a "streaming" license or a "download" license. But the next paragraphs of Pogue's review is telling:

The clever part is that this musical lockdown doesn't affect you much. After all, in most cases, isn't the primary benefit of song portability to move your collection to a portable player? Dudes — these songs are already on your portable player.

If you do want to burn an XM song to a CD, you'll have to buy it online. That's what the Helix's Bookmark function is all about. When you hear a good song, you bookmark it on the player. Later, you can connect it to a Windows PC, fire up the Napster online music store, and buy the bookmarked songs for $1 each. Navigating Napster's service plans and software options is only slightly more fun than filling out a 1040 form, but the dedicated music aficionado will muddle through.

So, this is telling me (and someone correct me if I'm reading this wrong) that the XM recording devices serves as a souped up cassette tape recorder. (Better quality recordings, but non-transferable.) BUT, if you hook it up to your PC, you'll be brought to a link where you can purchase a download copy of songs that you marked.

Given this, the RIAA lawsuits seems truly absurd to me. By linking the Napster service to these devices, and making consumers pay more to get these songs in a more usable, downloaded format, the RIAA is making it clear that recording it onto the XM player (as it currently works) is *not* the same as a downloaded MP3. If it was, then you wouldn't need to link to Napster and pay an extra $1 to purchase a copy of the song.

You can't have it both ways.


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