Ford Hits Back On Ridiculous Lawsuit Demanding $2,500 Per CD Ripper In Its Cars

from the let-us-explain-to-you-the-law dept

Back in July, we wrote about a ridiculous lawsuit filed by the AARC — the Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies — trying to make use of a misreading of the Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA) to pretend that it means that Ford and GM have to pay royalty money for every CD ripping car stereo they install. As we noted, the AHRA is basically a deadletter law. The law itself effectively killed any possible innovation in the area that it was designed to tax for royalties — machines that make repeated copies of content. The recording industry tried to pretend that basic MP3 players met the definition and sued one of the first such players, the Diamond Rio. The court soundly rejected the argument in that case, and thanks to that, probably 99% of you have MP3 players (or, nowadays, smartphones that play MP3s). In our original post, we went into much greater detail about why the AARC was clearly misreading both the law and the caselaw in a desperate attempt to kick up some royalties from the big automakers.

Ford (along with Clarion) have now responded and do a damn good job explaining why the AARC is simply wrong. The the filing is pretty short and sweet in explaining the problems with the AARC’s argument:

Congress enacted the AHRA in 1992 to regulate a then emerging technology that for the first time enabled high quality serial copying of copyrighted musical recordings. ?Serial copying? refers to the creation of copies of a musical recording from another copy of that recording as opposed to the creation of copies from the original recording. This activity concerned the music industry, which was a proponent of the AHRA. However, rather than directly prohibit serial copying outright, Congress exempted certain products and devices? specifically including computers and hard drives?from compliance while requiring other specifically defined ?devices? to also incorporate technology to prevent serial copying. The automotive navigation systems here are exempted.

Neither Ford nor Clarion is in the business of facilitating the serial copying of music. Ford is one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world; it builds and sells some of the best-selling cars and trucks, certain models of which include navigation systems. Clarion manufactures and supplies Ford with navigation systems for its vehicles. Each such navigation system is a complex computer and includes a central processing unit that interprets and executes complex instructions and a 40 GB hard drive for storage of an operating system, computer software programs, databases, and other information (?Nav System?).


By its own Complaint, Plaintiff admits that this feature of Defendants? Nav System consists of recording CDs to the system?s own hard drive, where the music is stored with various software programs and other data. It alleges nothing about making serial copies of CDs, digital audio tapes and the like. Under a plain reading of the AHRA, these automobiles with a Nav System are not capable of making a ?digital audio copied recording? of a ?digital musical recording? as defined under the Act. This is because the AHRA states that digital musical recordings do not include (1) material objects in which one or more computer programs are fixed or (2) material objects in which data other than sounds are fixed. Here, the Nav Systems are nothing less than automotive computers with hard drives containing both programs and data other than sounds. They do not reproduce digital music recordings in materials objects addressed by the statute, that is, CDs, LPs, cassettes, or digital audio tapes. The Nav Systems are outside the AHRA?s scope.

Not surprisingly, the filing relies heavily on the ruling in the Diamond case, and I see that one of the lawyers listed on the filing is Andrew Bridges, who handled the Diamond case in the first place. You never know how these kinds of court cases will turn out in the end, but it seems unlikely that the AARC is going to get rich off of this last gasp effort to squeeze money out of automakers.

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Companies: aarc, clarion, ford, gm

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Comments on “Ford Hits Back On Ridiculous Lawsuit Demanding $2,500 Per CD Ripper In Its Cars”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Ford likely won’t end up like Diamond Rio, which prevailed in court but ended up bankrupt from the hard-fought legal battle.

Another factor working in Ford’s favor is that the recording industry has much less money and power than it did in the 1980s and 1990s, when the industry routinely got everything it wanted out of both the legislators and the courts.

“probably 99% of you have MP3 players (or, nowadays, smartphones that play MP3s).”

I must be a one-percenter then. But I do have an old laptop that plays audio CDs without booting, and works just like a portable CD player (a feature I’ve never used).

IronChef says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well, when I was a regular commenter on TechDirt, in the 2004/2005 to 2006 timeframe. I guess many would chalk that experience up to being a “Regular Troll”.

I have to applaud Mike for bringing on President Scrub, Dark Helmet, and others. As I look back on it, it’s real funny stuff.

I’m not looking to get into that trap again. I need people I can trust. However, I applaud Mike for building a business which supports family. Nice to see everything work out in time.

I’m with a sad heart to report that my last emails sent to Steve Jobs years ago one month before Steve Jobs made the conscious decision to stop taking his medications decided to end his life. I said in that final email that I gave him the idea of the iPhone, waited, and “wouldn’t pray next time he needs a liver transplant”. Two weeks later he passed before I could send him a marimba-based song he’d enjoy to say I’m Sorry.

Today, Tim is running into multiple issues and yes, I’ve received multiple calls from both friends at Apple and even Apple Recruiters. I often say “Call me back in an hour; I’m walking into signing a lease” It works well for most.

My disappointment at that time is mostly based on the core concept and idea that he’d use my ideas to create a product and wouldn’t use it to call me.

I’ve travelled the world since Steve Jobs killed himself.

As we work through the original idea of copyright being abused; well, that’s going to take a company like Oracle to fix, and they have all the resources (including my friends) to do it, once an act of congress occurs. That Act would be around normalizing an invention.


Today, Oracle runs

Ahanix (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The CD-ripping programming was added for two reasons

1) Make use of the remaining 10GB on the internal hard drive, after map data
2) Appease customers who wanted a 6-cd changer. There was not enough space in the dashboard for navigation, premium audio, AND a 6-cd changer, so this was a compromise.

It wasn’t a commonly-used feature and was dropped entirely with MyFordTouch

Griff (profile) says:

Re: Re: Today I Learned

This looks to be fairly current, the filing is from 10/10/14.

The technology it talks about suggests otherwise – are 40GB HDDs really still available? OEMs have always been behind the curve with storage capacity, but that seems laughably small for 2010, miniscule now for what is the premium sound option for a vehicle.

Yeah, it’s probably an SSD, but still. A 128GB stick is under $60 at Micro Center these days.

Ahanix (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Today I Learned

They didn’t even need 40GB, really. The map/POI data takes up 30GB. The hard drive is a traditional Toshiba MK4036GAC 2.5″, designed specifically for automotive applications. The hard drive isn’t directly accessible by the enduser; content stored on CDs can be transferred to the internal hard drive, but most users just use an external thumb drive.

Anonymous Coward says:

will Congress ever get it into the thick heads that it’s about time they changed this complete backing of the entertainment industries? do they not see the obstacles that the industries keep putting up, thanks to the ridiculous laws that have been put in place to protect an industry that is at least 40 years behind every other one?

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