The National Music Publishers Association has sued XM Radio, saying that the satellite-radio company illegally reproduced and distributed copyrighted music through its XMP3 players, which allow subscribers to capture songs they’re listening to for future listening:
XM has contended that songs captured and stored on their receivers aren’t true sales, in part because they stay on the radio only as long as the owner remains a subscriber; also, they can’t be moved, say onto a computer or another music device. Legally, XM has said, the recordings are little different from those taped onto cassettes from the radio for personal use, which is permitted by law.
It also has said the devices encourage its subscribers to buy songs they like, allowing them to bookmark favorites and facilitating digital sales with its partner Napster Inc.; buying the song allows users to transfer it to computers or other music players. XM has said that it is a big booster of the music industry, playing lots of new songs and always showing the song and artist names on electronic displays on its radios.
The music industry disagrees, saying users get to use and store the songs recorded with the devices just as if they owned them. “These devices go well beyond a radio transmission,” says David Israelite, president and chief executive of the NMPA. “They replace the need to buy music.”
While we haven’t used the devices in question, we wonder if the NMPA (and the RIAA, which filed a similar lawsuit last year) has a point; the setup sounds, to us, not dissimilar to Rhapsody or other music sites that allow for people to tote songs along with them as long as they keep paying their subscriber fees. Which is why going the lawsuit route and throwing around that $150,000-per-infringement figure seems unnecessary–surely this matter can be resolved in a more tidy way, especially since satellite radio does allow for greater discovery possibilities, from its wider playlists to the fact that its interfaces actually serve the way-too-dormant practice of back-announcing songs that are playing.
Music Publishers Sue XM Radio Over Songs Stored on Receivers [WSJ, reg. req.]