By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Car stereo newcomer Estone Digital introduced this month one of the first in-dash CD receivers that can record directly from the radio.
The Estone's Ripper 500 reflects a growing movement in car A/V, toward the digital copying of music and movies, that is raising questions about how to manage copyright issues and still create products that keep up with the digital age.
Until recently, many first-tier suppliers shied away from recording from the radio because it entered a cloudy and ill-defined area of the law.
But now XM is selling products that record off its service and store the music in flash memory, and Sirius has plans to offer similar products. Clarion has a “Music Catcher” feature which rips CDs in the receiver and both AAMP of America and Directed Electronics showed at International CES products that store movies as well as music (see story, right). For its part, Toledo, Ohio-based Estone Digital, a division of 12-year-old computer retailer and distributor Stone Computer, introduced at CES an in-dash MP3/CD receiver with a removable hard drive that holds up to 30GB. The DIN-sized Ripper 500 can also rip a CD in seven to 10 minutes, said the company. In addition, it has a line-in connection, so it could record from a satellite radio receiver, noted president Bing Li. The Ripper 500 is expected to carry a retail price between $600 and $700.
In the future, Estone hopes to ship a Ripper 700 that can record and store up to 100 movies for viewing in the car.
According to CEA, it is legal to record from the radio. “We would consider that to be fair use … as long as it is for personal use,” said a spokesman.
To circumvent the fuzzy areas of the law, XM, Sirius and Estone Digital do not allow their content to be transferred to another device or medium for playback. But Sirius notes that the industry will likely have to clarify recording issues in the future.
Said Larry Pesce, product development and strategic planning senior VP at Sirius: “You enter the recording atmosphere very judiciously because of the legitimate rights of the content partners. Today the law indicates you can take content in analog format and save it in digital format. As of now, we're not allowing people to take the content out digitally.”
Both XM and Sirius are examining how to handle the problem in the future because “we can't let someone do it around us,” added Pesce.
According to the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992, users are allowed to make a copy of any digital audio programming on a device covered by the law (which does not cover computers), provided the information cannot be further copied, said Jim Burger, member of Washington-based law firm Dow, Lohnes and Albertson.
“Moreover, under the Copyright Law's Fair Use provision it's perfectly all right for a subscriber to record music and use it for his own personal enjoyment,” said Burger.
The issue becomes clouded, he said, if the user makes a copy and gives it to a friend, especially because the Audio Home Recording Act did not cover material copied to a computer. Then it becomes a question of whether it's permissible under the Fair Use provision, he said.
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