Record Labels Sue XM Radio, Claiming Copyright Infringement
XM Satellite Radio infringes copyrights held by music labels when it allows its subscribers to record songs, according to a lawsuit filed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Music fans who subscribe to XM Radio and own an Inno recorder from Pioneer can use the cell phone-size device to listen to satellite radio broadcasts, record songs, and then replay them as MP3 files.
XM currently broadcasts 170 channels of music to 6 million U.S. subscribers, each of whom pays a subscription fee of about $13 per month. XM projects that its subscriber base will reach 9 million by the end of 2006.Retailers have been selling Pioneer's $400 Inno since March, and XM is already promoting new devices such as Samsung's Helix.
On Tuesday, the RIAA accused XM of committing "massive wholesale infringement" of copyright sound recordings, and asked the court to stop XM's broadcasts and award it damages.
By allowing listeners to record MP3 files, XM is acting as a competitor to legal online music stores such as iTunes, Napster. and Rhapsody, the RIAA said. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
In fact, XM Radio is marketing the Inno as an alternative to the Apple iPod, using the advertising phrase "It's not the pod, it's the mothership."
The RIAA is an industry group whose members include such major music labels as Atlantic Recording, Capitol Records, Motown Records, Sony BMG, Virgin Records, and Warner Brothers.
Its members deny that they oppose satellite radio in general. "We celebrate the growth of XM and Sirius. We think the downloading capability of XM's Inno is attractive and appealing--it just needs to be licensed," the RIAA said in a statement.
A spokesman for XM Radio did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
For years, it has been legal for listeners to record songs off commercial, analog radio stations. But the RIAA says that satellite radio is different because the broadcast is digital, so XM subscribers can scan through a broadcast and record only certain songs.
They can store a lot, too. The Inno's 1GB of storage can hold about 50 hours of music--approximately 1000 songs. As future devices deliver greater memory, their storage capacity could easily swell to 10,000 songs, according to the RIAA. At that rate, the RIAA fears no one will ever buy music from the labels again.
"Because XM makes available vast catalogues of music in every genre, subscribers will have little need ever again to buy legitimate copies of plaintiffs' sound recordings," the RIAA declared.
The RIAA's lawsuit says that XM already has the ability to stop the practice. XM currently embeds software code in its encrypted satellite transmissions that enables it to delete saved songs if a user stops paying the XM subscription fee. RIAA says that XM could use that same code to prevent users from recording certain songs.
This lawsuit is similar to one that the RIAA brought against XM's rival, Sirius Satellite Radio. In that case, Sirius agreed to make it harder for listeners to record specific songs on its S50, a handheld satellite radio similar in size and price to the Inno.