August 17, 2004 · Tim Wu
Witness the Copyright Gap in its full majesty. In the UK, Digital Radio has been live at the BBC for about three years now. As the BBC says, “Digital Audio Broadcasting gives you far greater station choice, better reception & clarity of sound with no re-tuning.”
Yet meanwhile, in the country that invented both the radio station and the transistor, digital radio is stuck. Among other problems, the FCC is contending with the RIAA’s arguments that, absent proper controls, digital radio would be “the perfect storm” for the music industry. Digital radio, the RIAA believes, must be prevented from causing the “enormous damage wrought by peer-to-peer piracy.” On Monday, the RIAA filed a new letter reiterating that the �threat” from digital radio is “real and imminent.”
In addition, anyone who wants to run a digital radio-station through the network as opposed to broadcast is at an immediate disdvantage over those who stay analog or terrestial. A 1995 Act mandates that digital broadcasters pay an additional license fee (for sound recording copyrights) above and beyond the usual fees due ASCAP or BMI. That puts network radio, the technology of the future, at a cost disadvantage. And who gets those extra fees? You guessed it — the RIAA.
So next time you�re wondering why radio isn’t any better: its not the technology that’s the problem.