Michael Robertson, the entrepreneur behind MP3.com and MP3Tunes -- both of which drew music industry lawsuits for copyright infringement -- is at it again, today launching a new service that will let users record and save music from streaming Internet radio stations.
Called DAR.fm -- or "digital audio recorder" -- the service is sort of a TiVO for music. Users go to the site, browse the schedules of hundreds of different Internet radio stations, and then set up a recording for up to four hours of any broadcast. That recording can the be accessed later from a on online locker and streamed to any Internet-connected device, allowing users to fast-forward, pause, etc.
And the part that will thrill the music industry -- it has the ability to ID specific songs, save them as individual files, and let users transfer them to their iPod and computer-based music library. Lawsuit countdown in three, two, one…
Robertson feels this is completely legal, citing the outcome of a 2008 lawsuit between Cartoon Network v. Cablevision, in which the court ruled that the cable operator was within its rights to let users save recorded TV shows on a server as opposed to the cable box (as is common with most in-home digital video recorders today).
By and large, record labels have had little problem with recording bulk Internet radio streams for rewinding and playback. Where they balk is in this ability to save individual tracks and port them to another device.
This became a big issue back in 2006, when the then separate satellite radio services XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio both introduced portable devices that allowed users to save individual songs from their recordings. Those devices didn't let users transfer songs of the device, and they added a "buy" link to each tagged song to encourage sales. But the labels still sued. It never reached a ruling, though, as both cases wound out settled outside of court and the lawsuits were dropped.
That's mainly because the satellite radio companies needed to strike licensing deals with the labels, so it was in their best interest not to press the issue. Robertson, conversely, looks for reasons to press the issue. He will be appearing at the Launch conference in San Francisco today at 3:00 PT to demo and discuss the service.