RIAA's legal win not so easy listening for XM

Passive restraint

XM Satellite lost its bid to get a copyright infringement lawsuit dismissed, paving the way for the case challenging two radio receivers that allow listeners to make digital recordings of songs played on XM channels.

US District Judge Deborah Batts upheld the action, in which the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) alleges that the Inno, made by Pioneer, and Helix, manufactured by Samsung, transform passive listening into what amounts to a digital download service. Such a "service" violates an agreement with the labels that XM operate solely as a broadcaster, according to media reports.

XM claimed that the Home Recording Act of 1992, which permits individuals to make recordings for private use, should prevent the lawsuit from going forward. The RIAA brought the suit last May on behalf of almost a dozen labels, including Atlantic, BMG , Capitol, Elektra and Motown.

Batts rejected that argument, saying XM allows listeners to go back and capture songs in their entirety even if the listener only started recording part-way through the song. XM also allows customers to review playlists of broadcast songs so they can be replayed in the future.

"The record companies sufficiently allege that serving as a music distributor to XM + MP3 users gives XM added commercial benefit as a satellite radio broadcaster," Batts said. She flatly rejected the broadcaster's argument that the players are much like traditional radios equipped with tape recorders.

An XM spokesman said the company is confident it will prevail, saying the ruling was "based on the false characterizations set forth in the plaintiffs' complaint." ®

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