All entries for Wednesday 04 July 2007

July 04, 2007

Recording internet radio

Writing about web page

So here’s a clever idea: there are lots of internet radio stations around the world which stream songs to your computer in the form of MP3 files. Being MP3 files, they have metadata in the stream which identifies the song and the artist. If you could somehow watch thousands of these internet radio stations at once, you could theoretically capture and keep almost any popular song within a few hours, just as (if you’re old enough) you perhaps once used to record the top 40 from Radio 1. And since recording Radio 1 for your own personal use wasn’t and isn’t illegal, isn’t the same true of making a recording from an internet radio station?

The snag is, of course, that it’s hard to monitor all these stations at once so that if you’re looking for, say, the new Chemical Brothers single, you can spot it as soon as a station starts playing it and start your recording. But since this is machine-readable data, that’s not a job that a human being needs to do any more, and so we find an interesting piece of software called RadioTracker. From the web page:-

Its built-in music database provides you with listings of over 80,000 artists and their music. Simply point, click and add your favourite artists and titles to your Wish List. Radiotracker delivers the music you’ve selected in MP3 format as soon as it is played on any of over 18,000 watched internet radio stations worldwide.

There even seems to be a bit of peer-to-peer cleverness going on between all running instances of the program:-

State-of-the-art, distributed technology is the secret to Radiotracker’s power. Leveraging this transparent functionality, Radiotrackers around the world are able to automatically inform each other about which internet radio station is beginning to play which music. Each executing Radiotracker Platinum application automatically sends all other Radiotracker applications a tiny message about which music is just beginning to play and where. ... It’s totally brilliant, and it’s totally legal.

Is it, though? The logic seems plausible; recording off the radio is legal, so recording off internet radio is legal, so getting a robot (where’s my icon designer?) to listen to internet radio stations for artists and songs you like and then recording them is legal. But the site fairly brazenly asserts that if their software works as described, the net effect is that you’ll be able to acquire all the MP3s you want costlessly and legally:-

Listening to radio broadcasts over the internet is fully legal. And just like with terrestrial radio, internet broadcasts can also be legally recorded. The broadcasting of radio programs requires the official approval of each country, along with payment of fees.

But aren’t “costlessly” and “legally” somewhat at odds with each other? It seems as though there ought to be something wrong with this picture, yet I suppose if you elected to build up your music collection solely by taping off the radio and you kept your collection to yourself, you’d be essentially legal; is this any different?

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