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Senate Bill Would Limit Satellite-Radio Recording

Washington — Proposed legislation before the Senate Judiciary Committee would force satellite radio broadcasters XM and Sirius to limit consumers’ ability to record satellite radio programming, and it would raise the royalties that the broadcasters pay to copyright holders.

The bill, dubbed the Perform Act, would force satellite broadcasters to disable a network feature that lets subscribers record blocks of satellite programs onto MP3-type headphone players and other devices, then select the recorded content for playback by song title, genre or artist. The recording devices would still be allowed a VCR-like ability to record a block of programming and play back the full block.

Under the legislation, satellite companies that do not limit recording would be forced to negotiate royalties with music companies, performers, song writers and music publishers on a song-by-song basis rather than through a single blanket royalty agreement.

Digital AM/FM recording is not covered by the legislation because over-the-air digital radio, which is covered by FCC regulations, falls under the jurisdiction of the Senate Commerce Committee. The Judiciary Committee, on the other hand, oversees copyrights regulations related to satellite, cable and webcasting.

Private market negotiations to restrict the recording of digital AM/FM broadcasts are underway, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) noted. The RIAA also backed the introduction of legislation in the House by Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-N.J.), who wants to mandate private market negotiations between the music industry and digital AM/FM broadcasters to protect content, RIAA added.

The Senate legislation was introduced by Democrat Sen. Diane Feinstein and Republican senators Bill Frist and Lindsey Graham. It is endorsed by the RIAA and opposed by the Consumer Electronics Association, the Home Recording Rights Coalition and lobbying group Public Knowledge. The Digital Media Association (DiMA), which represents webcasters and download services, has also endorsed key elements of the legislation but also wants to include AM/FM broadcasters in the package to bring their royalty rates up to webcaster levels and to restrict digital AM/FM recording in the same way that satellite recording would be restricted.