CEA Fires Back At RIAA

Proposed regulatory restraints on digital audio broadcasting (DAB) threaten to stifle innovation, chill technological progress, and deny U.S. consumers the non-commercial recording rights upon whichthey have come to rely, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) argued today in comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The filing came in response to a Notice of Inquiry(NOI) issued by the FCC regarding DAB content control.

“This NOI is the latest example of the content community – in this case the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) – seeking to limit consumers’ recording rights and rollback the landmark ‘Betamax’ decision, which maintains that manufacturers have the right to sell a product if it is capable of any commercially significant non-infringing uses,” said CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro. “Interfering with radio broadcasters’ shift to digital broadcasting would choke off advancement and modernization. Not only is that un-American, it’s totally without merit.”

Regarding the threat of recording restrictions, the CEA filing notes, “In preparation for and acknowledgement of the digital age, and in full recognition of the FCC’s pursuit of digital radio standards, Congress clearly and explicitly drew the line between those services that would be subject to a license, and those services – primarily, free terrestrial broadcasts – that would remain free of license. CEA believes that Congress’ decision reflects a clear judgment that further reinforces the limits on what the Commission can and cannot address.”

CEA further argued that no harm has been presented to support RIAA’s call for FCC action nor is there any specific proposal – legal, regulatory or technical – before the Commission.

“RIAA fears a combination of features and functions that have been available for several years,” CEA wrote. “The introduction of DAB functions will be an enhancement, not a replacement, for analog signal acquisition. RIAA has never requested an imposition on FM broadcasting, so one must question the absurd result of imposing impairments on DAB broadcasts, but not on FM broadcasts, which are comparable in quality and received by the same device at the same time.”

Finally, CEA argued that the Commission lacks the jurisdiction to restrict DAB, pointing to the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992.

CEA concluded that, “Without any evidence of harm to home recording of digital radio, issues regarding digital audio content control are inappropriate for a rulemaking at this critical stage of the DAB conversion process. To forestall technological innovation and deployment would wholly disserve the public interest. CEA urges the Commission to proceed with the rapid deployment of DAB services and technologies to fully serve the interests of U.S. consumers and industry.”