House held hearing Nov. 3.

The recording industry, which has been pursuing government-mandated copying regulations on upcoming new-generation digital and satellite radio receivers for 18 months, finally got a hearing to present its case before a House panel Nov. 3.

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Tex., the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Courts, The Internet and Intellectual Property, is considering introducing legislation to safeguard copyrighted content in light of the technological changes in radio and TV that could harm creators and their distributors.

Mitch Bainwol, CEO and chairman of the Recording Industry Asssn. of America (RIAA) told lawmakers that these new devices go way beyond the traditional "passive listening" experience of radio and press-a-button recording of a song. "What we are talking about here is not casual recording by listeners," he wrote in written testimony, "but technologies that allow broadcast programs" to be automatically captured and then disaggregated, song-by-song, into a massive library of music, neatly filed in a digital jukebox and organized by artist, song title, genre and any other classification imaginable.

"Listeners will be able to build entire collections of content without the need to ever purchase any of it," he added. "This is not fair use. It is not time-shifting."

With their abilities, he forecasted, "these services will replace the sale of downloads or subscriptions by competitive distribution services such as Napster, Rhapsody and iTunes."

He warned that if such features are not regulated by some sort of payment or license, the loss of record sales "could rival or surpass" the loss of sales due to P2P file-sharing.

"Services that operate as broadcast stations should not offer features that enable song-by-song disaggregation and permanent storage in digital libraries without paying the same market prices that licensed download services pay," he wrote.

Bainwol also called on Congress to ensure the "appropriate and responsible rollout of these new broadcast technologies by granting jurisdiction to the FCC to require parity for all platforms," whether satellite, Internet or digital broadcast radio.

Lawmakers on the panel also heard from the motion picture industry, which is calling for a so-called "broadcast flag" for high definition television to prevent similar digital copying and distribution of films.

Also discussed was closing a loophole in the law which does not prevent pirates from routing copy-encoded digital material back to an analog version too "dumb" to record the encoding, and then send it back to a digital state unprotected and ready for illegal duplication.

RIAA has wide-ranging coalition support for changes in the law. The Recording Academy, the musician unions, Songwriters Guild of America, Hip Hop Summit Action Network, Nashville Songwriters Assn. International and
Recording Artists' Coalition are member-supporters, as are the National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers, National Music Publishers' Assn., the performing rights societies and SoundExchange.

The Consumer Electronics Assn. testified that such regulations would stifle innovation and rob consumers of their right to make private copies of broadcasts.

Gigi Sohn, president of the consumer rights group Public Knowlege, proposed instead "a multi-pronged approach of consumer education, enforcement of copyright laws and use of technological tools developed in the marketplace" to meet the threat. She also said that should flag bills be introduced, they should have language that exempts public affairs and news programs.