Yet again, Washington demonstrates its elementary comprehension of digital media through bad draft legislation. But this time it ain't the wacky House of Reps (so eager to sign off on unconstitutional proposals that they pass the bloody flag desecration amendment twice a year); senators are behind a piece of legal hooey that would cripple satellite radio's new receiver technology and also require internet radio stations to drop the popular, high-quality streaming MP3 format while adopting a different, no doubt inferior-sounding, DRM-embedded streaming format (which, by the way, Microsoft has already developed DRM streaming technology... but it requires you to buy a DRM-happy sound card which encrypts all audio coming into your computer and only works with pre-approved software).
Enter the gruesome Perform Act. Thanks, Senators Feinstein (D-CA) and Graham (R-SC)! The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge have posted some great comments about the havoc this piece of legislation will unleash upon all who enjoy the fruits that modern radio offers.
Basically, the feds want to make it impossible for you to record any audio that comes out of a digital device (your computer or your satellite radio receiver), and in doing so, they will unreasonably force substandard technologies onto the booming digital radio industry.
Here at WFMU, we've developed our online listenership by embracing, improving, and innovating our internet streams, and now almost half of the money that comprises our entire operating budget comes from listeners who use our web streams. And now Washington suddenly finds it necessary to uproot 9 years of progress and improvement of our streaming technology (and that of every other internet radio station) in favor of a minimally-developed, widely unavailable, costly, and mangled scheme for an uber-strict level of copy-protection. If that's not a lethal dose of digital cyanide, I don't know what is.
Radio has changed substantially over the past 10 years, and Washington's attitude towards new tech developments makes it patently obvious that they are frightened to death of ones and zeroes. It's not illegal to tape something off of your analog radio for non-commercial personal use. Why is it different when an internet radio listener tapes something off of their computer for non-commercial personal use? To the feds, the possibility that an internet radio listener might redistribute their personal digital recording illegally necessitates this overbearing legislation. They consider internet and satellite radio "distribution services" in addition to "performance outlets" (webcasters pay royalties for performing rights). Why they do not apply these misguided principles to analog radio is beyond me.
The RIAA and Senators Feinstein and Graham believe that satellite and internet radio stations should be forced to pay additional royalties because they are providing a signal that a second party might record and then might distribute illegally. But they'd rather have us webcasters change our entire infrastructure to exterminate any possibility of illegal distribution... by preventing everyone from being able to record a webcast in the first place. Because everyone can't be trusted.
A few days ago, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to discuss the Perform Act. Speakers (click on names to read testimony) included Anita Baker, Todd Rundgren, Victoria Shaw, Edgar Bronfman (Warner Music), Gary Parsons (XM), Bruce Reese (Bonneville Radio, representing NAB), and Mark Lam (Live 365 web streaming). With the exception of Todd Rundgren, the artists and record label representative voiced fear that satellite and internet radio stations are essentially allowing listeners to download songs and artists should be compensated. Thankfully, Todd Rundgren and the radio industry representatives asserted that satellite, internet, and digital radio are not music distribution services, and that the Perform Act is just another attempt by large music licensing companies to get more money without much benefit to the artists.
Please write to your senator, and let them know that the Perform Act will ruin internet and satellite radio.