Labels Push Curbs on Satellite, HD Radio on Capitol Hill

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Satellite Radio is quickly growing up, and that could be a problem for major labels.

While satellite-based streams of music are a core service that both XM and Sirius offer, a new crop of devices are allowing users to store content for playback later. Such devices have been on the market for some time, though the industry has been heavily focused on upcoming receivers like the Sirius S50, which hits retailers Friday. That heavy-duty device allows listeners to store up to 50 hours of content for playback later, a feature that could cannibalize purchases of CDs or paid downloads. Meanwhile, the ability to record digital (HD) radio streams is also an RIAA concern, and has led to multiple flare-ups with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) over the past few years.

In an attempt to limit various recording and time-shifting capabilities, the RIAA and various other music agencies have been pushing new bills on Capitol Hill. Most recently, the RIAA backed the “HD Radio Content Protection Act of 2005,” which aims to limit the amount of content that can be stored on both satellite and digital radio receivers, as well as how stored content can be accessed. According to Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, that would undermine existing personal usage rights as outlined in the Audio Home Recording Act.

In recent Congressional testimony before the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property, Sohn noted that the “proposed radio content protection legislation permits the FCC to extinguish the long protected consumer right, guaranteed by the Audio Home Recording Act, to record transmissions for personal use.” For the satellite industry, recording limitations on devices like the S50 would minimize the company’s competitiveness with the iPod, both on the dashboard and on-the-go.