Blog Post

FMC: HD Radio Debate Pours Salt in RIAA, CEA Wounds

[by Derek Slater] Welcome to’s coverage of the Future of Music Policy Summit. The second day kicked off with the State of the Union panel featuring an all-star cast.

Grokster may be over, but the issues it raised remain. One emerging battleground is HD radio.

Consumer Electronics Association’s Gary Shapiro pointed to how consumers’ rights are being chipped away, and he immediately seized on the record industry’s push for mandatory copy protection for HD radio. They need to control how consumers record broadcasted content, and, in turn, control how digital radios are designed. Such controls would restrict traditional uses of radio content, like time-shifting. Grokster is not enough, and the industry has told the FCC and Congress as much. Shapiro argued that we too often forget consumer rights and that this is about music fans enjoying content; the consequence will be stifling innovation and free expression in grave, unanticipated ways.

Hyperbolic fear-mongering? That’s what the RIAA’s Mitch Bainwol called Shapiro’s remarks. Bainwol stated that everyone needs to dial down the rhetoric to solve the music industry’s dire problems. He suggested that no legitimate consumer rights are at stake and that the record industry won’t sue people for time-shifting, even if the law is unclear there. The RIAA isn’t so litigious; it’s Shapiro who’s always bringing up litigation and failing to talk in a civil way, Bainwol concluded.

Of course, as moderator Jim Griffin noted, Bainwol had some apparent “fear-mongering” of his own, pointing to Nashville songwriters out of work and the “evisceration” of the future of music. Indeed, if we can’t say the music industry is litigious after suing or threatening thousands of P2P users and numerous innovators, then we can’t call water wet.

But that’s the rhetoric and arguments we’ve come to expect from both sides. Even with new battlegrounds, it’s just another day in the post-Napster world.