NAB to RIAA: Mandatory Digital Encryption Could Threaten HD-R Rollout

NAB to RIAA: Mandatory Digital Encryption Could Threaten HD-R Rollout
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NAB wants to work with the record labels to figure out a compromise over content protection issues associated with HD Radio, rather than relying on Congress to mandate a solution. It opposes mandatory encryption of the digital signal at the source, however, and tells the RIAA that such a proposal could obsolete both IBOC receivers and transmission equipment now in use.
In a letter to RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Bainwol, New NAB President/CEO David Rehr said the broadcast rollout is "well" underway and broadcasters have a lot invested in making the transition successful. "The goal for our industry is to find a resolution that balances protection of copyrighted works against the important objective of ensuring the continued and rapid expansion of digital audio broadcasts. Such a balanced approach could, in fact, aid the HD Radio rollout by removing regulatory and legislative uncertainty from the marketplace."
NAB questions the degree to which HD Radio threatens copyright or will facilitate unauthorized, digital distribution of sound recordings, states Rehr.
"Those desiring to obtain and listen to pure, uninterrupted performances of sound recording in lieu of radio already have an abundant number of means to do so. Peer-to-peer file sharing and the hours of uninterrupted music that can be stored on CDs and discs are but a few such means. iPod uploads and digital music on the Internet would seem to present much larger and more immediate threats to copyright holders."
The piracy risk with HD Radio devices is likely more limited than the RIAA believes, said Rehr, who goes on to say RIAA previously-suggested solutions such as an FCC mandate of digital broadcast encryption at the signal source is "antithetical to the concept of free, over-the-air broadcasting."
Encryption would also likely obsolete HD Radio units already on the market and "millions" more currently in the manufacturing pipeline, notes Rehr. Obsoleting radios already installed in cars would hurt the chances of additional automakers including terrestrial digital radios in their models, he stressed.
Mandatory encryption would risk making already-installed HD Radio transmission equipment obsolete.
NAB said in its consideration of digital copyright issues Congress specifically left-out free radio and suggested the NAB's Audio Broadcast Flag Taskforce meet with their counterparts at the RIAA and in the recording industry.

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