Michael Robertson, founder of such companies as MP3.com and Lindows, appears to be daring big radio and music companies to challenge him on copyright again.
Robertson's latest company DAR.fm, billed as a TiVo for Web radio, is expected to announce tomorrow that the service will enable users to capture the radio shows they record instead of just streaming them to their PCs or Web-connected devices. In the future, DAR.fm users can record talk shows and music and download them to iPads, iPhones, or Android devices, Robertson told CNET today. Not surprisingly, DAR.fm users can store their recordings at Robertson's digital-locker service, MP3tunes.com.
The new feature is available for free for the first series, which means that if you listen to say, NPR's "All Things Considered," DAR.fm will record it and download it daily for free. For more series, up to 10, a user must pay $39.95 a year.
So, how is this different from subscribing to a podcast?
Remember that not all radio shows offer a podcast. Fans of Rush Limbaugh must pay a yearly subscription. Some shows post their podcast three days after they air and some offer only highlights. Robertson promises that DAR.fm can record any show on the Web, period.
The download feature will certainly be reviewed closely by the big radio companies, such as Clear Channel and CBS Radio ( which shares the same parent company as CNET), as well as record companies. "Yes, it's hard to imagine that the record labels are going to be excited about this," Robertson conceded.
Robertson said that by enabling users to capture and store their recordings he is taking the copyright argument as it pertains to recording content for personal use to the next level. Most digital video recorders lock up content within the set-top box and limit the ability of users to move it to other devices.
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Robertson, however, said he believes he's on solid legal footing. He notes that the courts have already ruled that consumers have the right to record content for their personal use and all DAR.fm does is enable people to copy and store Web radio in much the same way people once videotaped shows with VCRs.
"It's a new functionality," Robertson said. "We're blazing a trail here, but I'm not aware that the word download or streaming is included in copyright law. It doesn't say you can't do this or you can't do that (with regards to these capabilities). I pay for a DVR from my cable company but they lock it up. I recorded it so why can't I move it to my iPad or Android device? I think DVRs should be open for download if that's what the consumer wants."
Representatives from Clear Channel, CBS Radio, and the Recording Industry Association of America were not immediately available for comment.
Robertson said companies like Clear Channel and CBS should embrace DAR.fm. If they want to stay relevant, he argues they have to offer on-demand features and be interactive.
"This is what they have to ask themselves, Robertson said. "Do they think the DVR has helped or hurt the cable industry. I think unquestionably that it has helped cable TV and satellite."