July 10, 2006 4:11PM

RIAA to Congress: Jump! Congress: How High? On One Foot or Two?

The entrenched powers in Washington are continuing their efforts to stamp out the consumer‐​friendly technology spawned by satellite radio.

From Congressional Quarterly:

Majority Leader Bill Frist (R‐​Tenn.) quietly has gone to bat for the Recording Industry Association of America and other groups to make sure that a key industry priority was included in the massive overhaul of telecommunications laws that the panel approved just before the July Fourth recess, several Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee aides confirmed.

The provision Frist helped place prevents satellite radio listeners from being able to record, store and rearrange music they receive from popular subscription services such as XM and Sirius. Music industry officials say that such copying would cheat labels and artists out of fees that consumers otherwise would pay when buying music on CDs or from online music services.

But the push by the record labels is rankling radio, electronics and consumer groups, who argue that listeners should be able to store songs for personal use as long as they are not selling or passing them along.

Several Commerce Committee aides confirmed that Frist had made it clear that he would allow the telecom bill to come to the floor only if it included the measure, which is commonly called the “audio flag” provision.


Beyond what appears to be a home‐​state interest in the issue, aides and lobbyists close to the debate noted that former Frist Chief of Staff Mitch Bainwol now heads the record labels’ lobby, the RIAA.

The provision is ridculous, of course. XM and Sirius already pay royalties for use of the copyrighted songs, and users are already permitted to record from the radio for personal use by other means. RIAA’s position is that there’s something about digital recordings that deserves extra protection. In truth, this bill will effectively kill XM and Sirius attempts to innovate and offer a more interactive, useful, and interesting form of radio.

Of course, this isn’t the first time a Washington dinosaur has attempted to use the regulatory process to stamp out innovation from satellite radio at the expense of consumers. The National Association of Broadcasters has been waging a protectionist campaign against satellite radio’s efforts to localize for years.