By Sue ZeidlerFri May 27, 5:45 PM ET
It's like Tivo for radio, but is it legal?
Various devices that enable listeners to record Internet radio streams and then convert them into MP3 files are catching on and making Web radio and streaming services more appealing to the general public.
But some legal experts say the recording software may violate digital copyright laws and does little more than promote piracy.
"Obviously if people can use the TIVO-like unit to download a recording from Web radio and pre-program it to search digital radio to find tracks that you want, it's going to beg a big question with the record industry," said Jay Cooper, an veteran entertainment lawyer. "The thing to ask is if it is a violation and does it need to be examined. Technology's way ahead of the law."
Cooper said that, under the Digital Copyright Millenium Act, users have no right to duplicate copyrighted material from a computer hard drive, only from a digital or analog recording device and then only for personal use and not for redistribution.
Webcasters similarly are restricted from promoting the recording of their content.
But with products such as San Francisco-based Applian Technologies' Replay Radio, users can split, chop, trim and edit their recorded MP3 files from streamed music services.
The company's Web site says the product "works like a TiVo for Internet Radio" and can turn streaming music into perfectly tagged MP3 song files.
"There's certainly a lawsuit waiting to happen because they're basically enabling consumers to record and the recordings are not authorized," said Jonathan Potter, executive director of the Digital Media Association.
But Tom Mayes, co-owner of Applian, defended the practice.
"We've been doing this for a long time," he said, noting other software recording programs were offering similar functions. "I think its too late for these (record) companies to try to put a stranglehold (on technology)."
On its Web sites, the company said its products are not intended for use in circumventing copy protection or making illegal copies of coyprighted content.
But at least two Webcasters have raised a red flag about Replay Radio. RealNetworks Inc.'s (Nasdaq:RNWK - news) Rhapsody sent Applian a letter requesting it take Rhapsody's name off a Web page atthat lists streaming music services that work with the software.
"Using software like Replay Radio to record Rhapsody subscription streams violates our terms of service," said Matt Graves, a spokesman for Rhapsody.
Yahoo Inc.'s (Nasdaq:YHOO - news) MusicMatch concurred.
On Replay Radio's Web site, the company has partially obscured the reference to Rhapsody and MusicMatch, by inserting hyphens for parts of the spellings.
"Rhapsody sent us a note from their legal department telling us not to use their name on our Web site and I said OK," said Mayes.
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
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