After simmering in the background for the last few years as an accepted and mature technology, satellite radio is back in the news, and not only for the proposed merger between XM and Sirius. A recent judgment by a U.S. District Court could increase the heat in the courts and on the floor of Congress. Retailers should take note because the outcome could directly affect the products they sell.
Last year, the music industry joined forces to launch a lawsuit against XM Satellite Radio. At the heart of the issue are the portable XM/Pioneer Inno and the XM+MP3 service. The technology allows users to record satellite radio to the Inno. The recorded music, however, can’t be moved from the Inno to other devices. The music companies argue in their complaint, “XM’s new service encroaches directly and obviously on the digital download business, undermining Plaintiffs’ ability to distribute their copyrighted works through lawful legitimate services, such as iTunes and others ...”
A lawsuit is one thing; they happen all the time. But it doesn’t mean they will gain any traction. But U.S. District Court Judge Deborah A. Batts recently gave the music industry reason to cheer by denying XM’s request for dismissal and allowing the suit to go to trial. XM argues that the Home Recording Act of 1992 protects its device’s recording capabilities. The judge disagreed, and perhaps had many XM supporters incensed when she was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, “It is manifestly apparent that the use of a radio-cassette player to record songs played over free radio does not threaten the market for copyrighted works as does the use of a recorder which stores songs from private radio broadcasts on a subscription fee basis.”