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XM Radio Faces Setback against RIAA Lawsuit
January 19, 2007
Thomas Mennecke
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XM Satellite Radio and P2P networking might as well be on opposite sides of the technological spectrum, but their frequent litigation with the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) makes for a good Saturday night date ice breaker. Claiming that XM Satellite Radio’s new "XM+MP3" service disaggregates recordings and permits the creation of music libraries in a similar fashion to iTunes, the music industry filed a copyright violation complaint in May of 2006.

The music industry contends that XM’s license doesn’t permit the service to act like an online music store. The “XM+MP3” service allows the consumer to download perfect, digital copies of satellite transmitted songs and rearrange the play list in any fashion desired. The RIAA has repeatedly stated they are not necessary against sound recording or time-shifting; however they are against reorganizing recordings per genre or artist.

XM defended its position, stating its service is protected by the Audio Home Recording Act. The Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA), passed in 1992, allows for private, non-commercial copying of digital and/or analog recording with a capable device.

"No action may be brought under this title alleging infringement of copyright based on the manufacture, importation, or distribution of a digital audio recording device… or based on the noncommercial use by a consumer of such a device… for making digital music recordings or analog musical recordings.”

Hoping to prevent a drawn out legal battle, XM Radio motioned to have the complaint dismissed based on the AHRA. Unfortunately for XM, their request was denied today by Judge Deborah Batts in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In her decision, Judge Batts states the provisions of the AHRA have little compatibility with the music industry's lawsuit.

“…XM is not being sued for actions taken in its capacity as a DARD (Digital Audio Recording Device) distributor; therefore, XM is not immunized from this suit under the protection offered by the AHRA.”

In other words, the RIAA doesn't care if XM promotes a device that records music. What does the RIAA care about?

“What the Complaint does allege is that, in providing services specific to users of XM + MP3 players, XM is acting outside the scope of its license for broadcast service – XM’s only source of permission to use their recordings.”

The judge’s ruling is a interesting interpretation of the AHRA, and one that focuses on the act with a very fine legal microscope. Since XM's ability to disaggregate and reorganize music libraries is not part of the deal between the RIAA and XM Radio, they are not protected by its safe harbor provisions - at least not at this stage of the game.

However this is not the end of the legal road for XM Radio, they still have 30 days to respond to the music industry’s complaint. And as evidenced by XM’s reaction in Reuters, the fight has yet to be taken out of the satellite music provider.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
Entertainment Industry :: RIAA
Legal/Courtroom :: Other Lawsuits

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