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How The DMCA Is Restricting Online Radio In Ridiculous Ways

from the can't-play-that-show dept

When webcasting first started to become popular, as with any new and useful offering, the RIAA was quick to try to kill it off with ridiculously high licensing fees. While there was some back and forth over the years, the current fees make it nearly impossible to legally stream music online profitably. But, the details are even worse than you think. Even if you are paying the super high fees (which are much higher than terrestrial radio), there are all kinds of restrictions as well. Michael Scott points us to an excellent article in the Tufts' student paper highlighting how these restrictions are harming college radio without any benefit. As the article notes, they are:
"now prohibited from forwardly announcing song titles, broadcasting more than three songs from the same album or four songs from the same artist in a three-hour period, making archived webcasts of their shows available online for longer than two weeks and making those webcasts available for download."
The article points out that nothing in these restrictions will stop people from illegally downloading music, but they will serve to create an annoyance for the DJs who put together the programs for this station, and for listeners. Making shows available to download as podcasts, seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do to build up a fanbase. But... not allowed. The whole thing about preventing three songs from an album or four songs from the same artist in a three-hour period is the RIAA's ham-fisted way of trying to stop DJs from playing a whole album straight -- but it also kills off programs dedicated to a single artist. The article mentions, for example, how the University of Michigan's radio station can no longer air a radio show it used to have, dedicated to Duke Ellington. When I was in college, our student-run station had a show dedicated to the Beatles, which I imagine also could not be run today under these rules. Now, the article doesn't mention that there apparently are some ways to get waivers for these restrictions, but they appear to only be in very limited cases, and the details are somewhat secretive.

Yet another case of the DMCA putting in place ridiculous restrictions that do nothing to actually stop unauthorized copying.

Filed Under: copyright, dmca, radio


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2010 @ 6:59am

    I told my school radio to just broadcast from some other country, the DJ can remote in from the states but the songs and hardware are "broadcast" from Sweden where the laws are more favorable. We even went so far as to register a small non-profit who "owned" the station and allows us to do shows.

    Since the station is outside the US (as a business is a person too right? right?) but the nature of web 2.0 is to move the physical server as close to the end point as you can make it, we have a data center in Canada that does all our physical broadcasts.

    The only person who is in the US never signed a contract with the RIAA and is employed as a contractor, in effect we could have anyone in the world do the same job.

    Why did we do all this? We're a public university net radio station for crying out loud. Well its actually simple, it cost less and actually requires less overhead.

    In this situation who do you sue anyway? Do you sue the school because it supply's the DJs? Do you sue the non-profit in Europe because its braking US law? Do you sue someone in Canada for having the audacity to put a Europe company data center in Canada? Its a giant legal limbo solution.

    In the near future I think this kind of legal shopping is going to become more common then people think. Being able to skirt the DCMA by incorporating in Europe while having a data center in a 3rd country and who knows what else in the home country.

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