Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Inno the new Rio?

In the mid 1990s Karlheinz Brandenburg’s team at the Frauenhofer Institute in Germany invented the MP3 digital audio standard. In the late 1990s the US music industry sued to get a little MP3 player called the Rio banned. The Rio was the forerunner of the iPod and played other audio files as well as MP3s. In the end the RIAA only lost the case on a legal technicality in the Appeal Court. The Rio survived, Napster, Grokster and other P2P services took hold, the music industry went berserk and iTunes evolved.

Now the music labels are suing XM Satellite Radio "over its new iPod-like device that can store up to 50 hours of music", so the wheel has, sort of, come full circle again. This has been on the cards ever since digital radio came on the scene. I'm surprised it has taken them so long really. This time, though, rather than seeking an injunction banning the sales of these devices, the labels are merely looking for a slice of the revenues.

"XM Satellite said Tuesday it will fight the lawsuit and accused the labels of using the courts as leverage during business negotiations.

``These are legal devices that allow consumers to listen to and record radio just as the law has allowed for decades,'' the company said in a statement. ``The music labels are trying to stifle innovation, limit consumer choice and roll back consumers' rights to record content for their personal use.''...

``Yahoo!, Rhapsody, iTunes and Napster all have licenses,'' said Mitch Bainwol, chief executive for the Recording Industry Association of America. ``There's no reason XM shouldn't as well.''"

Clever bit of PR by Bainwol, though he does neglect to mention that the radio company already pay performance licences.

Update: the EFF have more details.

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