Tuesday, November 29, 2005


It's not because they hate everything music lovers do that the RIAA feels the need to throw its weight around, it's just the twitching of old, frightened industries. The RIAA apparently has so much spare cash its been able to pay people to listen to the whole of Live365's amateur webcast output, and found some people who are getting the rules wrong. (Live365, it's worth mentioning, pay a splendid licence fee to the music industry in order to allow its members to promote the music industry's product.) The RIAA has sent a threatening letter.

But if people are breaking the rules, could that be because the rules read more like a question from an examination in logic than a simple set of instructions. Order your online webcast according to the following instructions:

* The webcast is not limited to particular users who pay for it (that’s the ``non-subscription’’ part.)
* The user must not be able to choose and receive a particular recording: that is, no playing songs on demand.
* In a three hour period, you can’t play more than three tracks from a given album, and no more than two consecutively.
* In a three hour period, you can’t play more than four tracks by a given artist, and no more than three consecutively.
* If the webcast is archived, the archive must be at least five hours long, and must not be made available for more than two weeks. The idea here is to make it hard for users to scan through the webcast to pick out and save individual songs.
* If the webcast repeats itself (plays in a loop) then the loop must be at least three hours long.
* The webcast must not publish prior announcements of the songs: you can’t let the users know what songs are coming up next, and you can’t publish your playlists ahead of time.
* You must identify the song title, album title, and the featured artist in text during the performance of the song.
* You must not “encourage’’ users to copy or record the music that you are playing, and you must “disable copying by users if in possession of technology capable of doing so.’’

Of course, the tortured rules are designed to skew things in the RIAA's favour - they don't like anything that distributes music that they can't control, and so they've come up with this list of instructions that make Nick Hornby's rules for making a mixtape in High Fidelty seem like Liberty Hall. The hope is that most people will spend ten minutes trying to develop a playlist that's compliant and give up; hardier souls are almost certain to fall foul of one or other of the rules sooner or later and give the RIAA a chance to shout "foul."

We'd love to see the bloke who sits in the RIAA offices tracking this compliance, though - does he punch the air when he hears a second track that appeared on Now Thats What I Call Music 62 just two and a half hours after the last one?

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