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Rio legal, rules appeals court

Portable MP3 player not a recording device -- official

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Diamond Multimedia was feeling very pleased with itself yesterday when the US Appeals Court ruled that the company's Rio MP3 player is not a digital audio recording device. In turn, that means Rio doesn't need to ship with a copy-protection mechanism, as required by the US Audio Home Recording Act of 1992. The original case against Diamond, brought last autumn by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sought to ban the Rio because, as a recording device without a copy-protection system it was in contravention of the Act. The RIAA's argument was thrown out by the judge, and so the organisation appealed against his ruling -- only to hear yesterday that it had been upheld. "Because the Rio cannot make copies from transmissions or from digital music media such as CDs and tapes, but instead can only make copies from a computer hard drive, it is not a digital audio recording device," said the court. In a sense, though, yesterday's ruling was irrelevant. Since Diamond began shipping the Rio, it pledged it would, after all, add a copy-protection system to the next version of the player, due this summer. It will use InterTrust's MetaTrust system. It has also joined the music industry's Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI). Since the Rio's launch Diamond has shipped over 200,000 units, many of them at $200 a pop, so even a ruling in the RIAA's favour may not have inconvenienced Diamond too much. Indeed, the possibility that the RIAA might win out has kept various players out of the digital player market, allowing Diamond to build up its marketshare before the consumer electronics giants move in on its territory. "When people are shipping first-generation units, we'll be shipping second-generation devices," said a Diamond spokeswoman, smugly. ®

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