More on XM v. RIAA

A while back I posted about the RIAA lawsuit against XM Radio, claiming $150,000 in damages for each song that XM’s Inno device downloads from its satellite service. Well, now it looks like XM is stepping up and asking a federal judge to toss the case out of court.

XM Radio

XM Satellite Radio asked a U.S. federal judge Monday to throw out a copyright lawsuit by the recording industry over the company’s new iPod-like device that can store up to 50 hours of music.

XM Satellite said the 1992 Home Recording Audio act protects it from being sued over its $400 (U.S.) handheld "Inno" device. The law bans some copyright claims against equipment makers and consumers who make digital music recordings for private use.

… XM Satellite has compared its new device to a high-tech videocassette recorder, which consumers can legally use to record programs for their personal use. It also noted that songs stored on the device from its broadcasts can’t be copied and can only be played for as long as a customer subscribes to its service.

Sounds familiar. I’m probably giving away my age by saying this, but when I was a kid I spent lots of time listening to the radio, and when a favorite song of mine came on I’d hit the "Record" button on the cassette player, and record songs until I had a tape full of my favorites (though minus the beginning of the song in some cases). XM’s player sounds a lot like that. And, as I noted before, if XM subscribers want to have their favorite songs on other devices they can download them from pay services like Napster or iTunes, thus effectively paying for the songs twice — once as XM subscribers and again to download from a pay service.

Of course XM may be seeking to get the case behind them, since they’re about to launch Oprah’s radio show in August, but also because the competition is catching up with them. The Globe & Mail article notes that XM has balked at notion of having to buy expensive distribution licenses from the recording industry, but that Sirius has agreed to pay for those licenses to cover its own similar players. Meanwhile the buzz in the business world is that Sirius is closing in on XM’s subscriber numbers and that XM CEO Hugh Panero may have to work to get the buzz back in XM’s favor.

WaPo columnist Steve Pearlstein has more on the case of XM v. RIAA, and answered questions this morning in an online chat.