Anyone who has ever listened to and recorded Internet radio might be violating Copyright laws without even knowing it. There is new software available that allows Internet users to record incoming audio streams (basically, Internet radio stations.) There are thousands of these stations, providing listeners with any kind of music imaginable. While most people just tune in to listen and enjoy the music, most don't realize how simple it would be to record the music and have it to enjoy permanently. "With the right software, you can program a PC to connect to a favorite stream and copy it to your hard drive."
The same standard applies to radio broadcasts over the Internet. "It might be OK to record the Internet broadcast of a favorite opera, so you can listen to it next week. But once the fat lady sings, you're legally obliged to press the delete button." How can the music industry possibly enforce this law? The difference between recording Internet radio and recording and sharing MP3's is that the former is done in the privacy of your own home, and no one needs to know what or how much music you're recording.
True music collectors would not be interested in most of the radio stations, as the quality of the music is nothing special. However, there are several stations that are now broadcasting at 160 kilobits per second or higher, which allow for quality similar to MP3 files downloaded off the Internet. This is where the danger comes in - it seems easy to start collecting and downloading Internet radio music and creating a library, without infringing on any copyrights.
Steven Marks, the top lawyer for the Recording Industry Association of America has spoken out against this practice. He stated that "making a music library from captured Internet music streams is just as illegal as downloading pirated MP3 tunes over a file-swapping network." The 1984 Supreme Court decision regarding the Sony-Betamax case held that while it was legal to record TV shows for viewing at a later time, this did not allow for recording shows to create a permanent library. "In other words, people who've taped and saved every episode of "Seinfeld" or "Sex and the City" are thieves."
The same standard applies to radio broadcasts over the Internet. "It might be OK to record the Internet broadcast of a favorite opera, so you can listen to it next week. But once the fat lady sings, you're legally obliged to press the delete button."
The difference between recording Internet radio music and sharing MP3 files is that the former is done in the privacy of one's own home, with no "fingerprint" on the recording to identify the infringer. In an effort to remedy this problem, music industry executives have began talking to the FCC regarding a "built-in piracy cop" that would not allow permanent recordings of Internet radio. The music industry is essentially "demanding that the FCC order the high-definition radio broadcasters to add a 'broadcast flag,' an antipiracy system similar to the kind mandated for high-definition television broadcasts."
While this technology would still allow a user to record music during a certain period of time each day, it would prohibit them from making copies of each individual song. The FCC has not yet approved placing these limits on high-definition radio, but the music industry is pushing hard for "built-in audio anti-copying chips" in all computers. as the practice of recording Internet radio is becoming more and more common.
The ultimate goal of the music industry is to be able to control every recording on every home computer, which seems to many like a violation of their "listening rights." A recent post on "A Copyfighter's Musings" has commented that "(a)t some point soon, it may be necessary to revisit the wall between audio streaming and downloading." The post points out the difficulty the music industry will encounter in attempting to put a stop to this "illegal" recording: "given how the sound recording compulsory license for non-interactive steaming services, radio stations can acquire licenses without having to use copy-protection."
Lastly, the blog notes some of the complex issues between social norms and copyright law. "With Internet radio, a copy is ending up on my computer in some form - whether you call it a stream or a copy, the bits are on my computer. Yet I can only acquire those bits on the condition that I not render them in a permanent state to replay them. "