Are Playlists Factual Information?

from the questions,-questions,-questions dept

When Microsoft launched their new music service, one of the “features” was that they tried to mimic a number of radio stations by offering streaming versions of their playlists, minus all the DJ chatter, commercials and songs that weren’t licensed for online usage. This raised a bit of a stink and then quieted down. Now, Wired News is taking a look at the legal issues here and wondering if radio stations have a case against Microsoft? First, they admit that it’s a little amusing that Microsoft, who is a strong believer in intellectual property laws, suddenly finds themselves on the other side of this issue. However, it does seem pretty clear that, just like real-time sports data, playlists are protected as being factual information. What the article doesn’t say is whether or not the radio stations could claim intellectual property protection over the way they organize those songs — something that has received some protection in the past, and which may get more protection soon. The other, perhaps stronger case for radio stations is trademark violations. Microsoft is claiming their streaming versions are “like 100.3 FM KSFI FM 100 Continuous Soft Hits,” or whatever station they’re imitating. The radio stations might make a case that this could confuse users into believing the stream is somehow from that radio station or sponsored by them. Microsoft, of course, will counter that the “like” clearly distinguishes their streams as separate. Either way, there is the question of whether or not this fight is worth it for the radio industry. They don’t see internet radio as that big of a threat (yet), and a lawsuit could give Microsoft extra publicity for the service (which might be just what they intended).

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