XM è già sotto i riflettori insieme a Sirius per la proposta di fusione tra i due operatori. Proprio in questi giorni Sirius aveva parlato di una proposta mirata a rendere più appetibile una eventuale futura situazione di monopolio sul mercato della radiofonia digitale satellitare. Una volta approvata la fusione, gli utenti del nuovo operatore potrebbero scegliere abbonamenti a costo ridotto che daranno loro la possibilità di ascoltare solo una manciata di canali tra i 300 e oltri che costituiranno l’offerta finale. Inoltre le due società giurano su montagne di Bibbie che non ci saranno aumenti di prezzo, che la fusione garantirà alla nuova azienda costi minori e quindi maggiori margini. Ora questa nuova tegola, che arriva un fronte assolutamente incapace di accettare le inevitabili conseguenze dell’evoluzione tecnologica e che invece di pensare a soluzioni eque per tutti si sforzano di ideare ogni giorno che passa qualche nuova e impraticabile barriera. Mi chiedo cosa succederà quando anche la radio terrestre (vedi le notizie sulla definitiva approvazione di HD Radio) sarà digitale e dispositivi come questo appena lanciato da XM invaderanno i supermercati. Chi denunceranno a quel punto gli avvocati della NMPA, gli inventori del transistor? E la loro strenua opposizione potrà avere delle implicazioni sullo sviluppo dell’industria della radio digitale? Internet non sono riusciti a fermarla, ma forse HD Radio e gli altri standard non avranno vita altrettanto facile.
Music Publishers Sue XM Radio Over Songs Stored on Receivers
By SARAH MCBRIDE March 23, 2007
(Dal Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article_print/SB117459929926145965.html)
Members of the National Music Publishers Association sued XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. over XM radios that blur the distinction between listening to a song and owning it. The suit revolves around receivers with the XM+MP3 service, which allows listeners to store songs they hear on XM and arrange them into playlists, much as listeners do with iPods. An XM subscriber can punch a button during any part of a song and record it, capturing the entire track.
The NMPA filed suit yesterday in federal court New York, charging XM with unlawfully reproducing and distributing copyrighted music without paying appropriate royalties. NMPA members are suing for damages of as much as $150,000 per song infringed and per infringement. The suit could aid groups such as local broadcasters who are working to derail XM's attempt to merge with rival Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. Resolving the issue could become a bargaining chip in the merger talks, much as creating different pricing schedules for satellite service is emerging as a concession point in the merger.
The NMPA suit "is a negotiating tactic to gain an advantage in our ongoing business discussions," a spokesman for XM Radio wrote in a statement. "XM pays royalties to writers and composers, who are also compensated by our device manufacturers." The suit is similar to one filed last year in federal court by members of the Recording Industry Association of America. That suit, dealing with the royalty payments XM makes to music labels, is working its way through the court system; in January, a judge denied XM's motion to dismiss it. At issue in the case filed Thursday are the rights XM pays to publishers and songwriters of the underlying musical composition. The fees the publishers and songwriters get for airplay of their songs are much lower than the payments the industry would get for outright sales of the songs.
XM has contended that songs captured and stored on their receivers aren't true sales, in part because they stay on the radio only as long as the owner remains a subscriber; also, they can't be moved, say onto a computer or another music device. Legally, XM has said, the recordings are little different from those taped onto cassettes from the radio for personal use, which is permitted by law. It also has said the devices encourage its subscribers to buy songs they like, allowing them to bookmark favorites and facilitating digital sales with its partner Napster Inc.; buying the song allows users to transfer it to computers or other music players. XM has said that it is a big booster of the music industry, playing lots of new songs and always showing the song and artist names on electronic displays on its radios. The music industry disagrees, saying users get to use and store the songs recorded with the devices just as if they owned them. "These devices go well beyond a radio transmission," says David Israelite, president and chief executive of the NMPA. "They replace the need to buy music."
Last year, XM rival Sirius faced similar problems with the record labels over one of its radios with storage capabilities, but settled, agreeing to pay a small amount per device sold to the labels. But the music publishers and songwriters say Sirius hasn't reached agreement with them, although they hope the lawsuit against XM spurs an agreement, Mr. Israelite says. With the suits, the music industry is signaling that there are limits to how much it is willing to tolerate devices that record music from the radio, particularly when it comes to the devices' ability to sort songs. Both suits underscore how technology creates new problems for copyright holders, who are trying to fight off widespread music piracy, even as it creates new business opportunities. The outcome of the case could affect how storage works on future digital radio sets or emerging distribution services.