NO MUSIC FOR YOU. So you know how if you're listening to the radio you're allowed to record what you're listening to onto a tape? So, seemingly, if you're listening to digital radio, you should be allowed to record what you're listening to onto a digital file. So, at least, that�s what XM and Sirius Radio believe. But Bill Frist and the RIAA feel otherwise and are pushing a bill to ban such devices:

The record labels� campaign has urgency, since XM and Sirius already have rolled out devices that allow users to store music broadcast over their networks. According to the radio companies, the technology works like a more advanced method of tape-recording songs off a traditional radio broadcast. Users can store songs they�ve recorded and arrange them on a playlist, but they can�t transfer them onto a CD or upload them onto the Internet. For instance, they can record a block of songs � say, an hour of Coldplay � and later sort through which ones to save and which to trash. Once a listener�s subscription to the service ends, the songs are lost.

�Our concern is that consumers have had the right to record music off the radio for decades. This basically would overturn that for no good reason,� said Art Brodsky, communications director for the consumer group Public Knowledge.

Two points here. One is that if this law goes through, you're going to lose access to a potentially cool and useful future technology. The other point, though, is that in the world of intellectual property all things are connected. If the precedent of banning digital radio broadcast recordings is set, will that mean digital television will suffer a similar fate? If you think there aren't lobbyists out that prepared to write up bills banning or crippling TiVo and similar services, you're sorely mistaken. What's happening here is that technological change is challenging the business models of certain existing firms. This is totally normal. Think about what the internal combustion engine did to the railroads. But the companies have, thus far, been remarkably successful in getting Congress and the courts to start making the prime goal of intellectual property policy not advancing the public interest but maintaining the profitability of incumbent firms. This satellite radio thing is only a smallish point, but it's part of something big and important.

--Matthew Yglesias

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