The record industry sees a new threat in its ongoing battle to control content: satellite radio.
Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Inc. are selling portable music players that can download songs from satellite radio channels.
Both companies already offer portable radios, but the new devices due out this fall have downloading capability digital kryptonite as far as the Recording Industry Association of America is concerned.
In the association's aggressive campaign to combat illegal downloading, the primary target has been peer-to-peer file sharing programs where users swap music over the Internet. Users have not yet been able to download radio music files into their personal libraries, although the satellite radio devices come close to pushing that envelope with a mix of radio-recording and organizing capabilities.
XM's newest portable device, made by Samsung Electronics Co., can record five hours of live radio. It's offered in partnership with digital music service Napster Inc. and allows users to flag favorite songs on the radio and download them through a Napster subscription. Non-Napster listeners must wait for their favorite songs on the radio if they want to create a playlist.
Sirius's product can download up to 50 hours of radio content. In addition, the device can download music files from a user's personal collection, though there is no partnership with a downloading service.
The satellite companies claim that their new products should not be lumped with illegal downloading because music cannot be removed from the portable player or be duplicated. "It's not an on-demand service, it's not transferable," explained Nathaniel Brown, a spokesman for XM.
XM executives and the RIAA are in discussions to work out their differences over the new devices. "The music industry is an important partner, and we continue to listen to their concerns in the hopes of finding a resolution that benefits everyone," Brown said.
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