The US music industry is looking to ban inexpensive ?portable Web players? which it claims enables consumers to download illegal copies of songs posted on the Internet.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which represents the powerful US record companies, has already started legal proceedings against Diamond Multimedia.
An injunction has been sought by the RIAA to stop Diamond shipping its recently announced Rio PMP300 portable music player which supports MP3 compression, popular for storing music tracks in digital format. The Rio is due to go on sale in the US this month, priced at $199.
The RIAA is concerned that the availability of such devices could mean the problem of Internet piracy spirals out of control. Diamond, however, is adamant the RIAA has no grounds for its actions.
?The RIAA?s claim that the Rio player and similar devices are in violation of the 1992 Audio Home Recording Act is unfounded,? commented Ken Wirt, vice president of coroporate marketing for Diamond Multimedia.
?The Rio PMP300 portable music player is a playback-only device and does not record. Rio simply holds audio content that is already stored on a computer?s hard drive and plays back that content,? he continued. US law prohibits the unauthorised copying of protected music recordings and covers devices ?designed or marketed for the purpose of, and that are capable of making a digital audio recording for private use?.
In a statement Diamond said, ?it does not support in any way the unauthorised distribution of unlicensed music and has taken steps to clearly support anti-piracy publicly and in promotional material.?
The RIAA claims, however, that the MP3 format used by the Rio player is used mainly by pirates trafficking unlicensed music online. Michael Robertson, president of Z Company which owns the MP3.com Website, however, said that nearly 800 artists have signed up to use MP3, including the Beastie Boys, and over four million legal songs have been downloaded from the site.
?Clearly, it appears that the RIAA?s lawsuit against Diamond is being driven by the interests of its largest members, the big five record labels, who are seeking to maintain their control of music distribution and prevent the unfettered freedom of musicians without recording contracts at their member companies to distribute their music to a broad audience,? said Wirt.
The RIAA claims, however, that illegal MP3 sites are mushrooming and maintains that its investigation team found 80 sites with more than 20,000 unlicensed music tracks posted for download in a single day.
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