July 04, 2007

Recording internet radio

Writing about web page http://radiotracker.com/en/free_mp3_music_downloads/platinum/index.html

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?


- 7 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Chris

    “Costless” and “legally”?! Of course it’s possible…starting from the example in the article. Years ago we used to sit near a radio and record the song that we wanted on a tape as soon as the radio started playing it. It was legal and it was costless (except for the tape’s price.). Today we are in full technological revolution, technology is evolving every day, so if a robot can listen and record all the songs we like, it’s only because science and technology have evolved far more that we could have imagine years and years ago. So I consider it to be perfectly legal even if it’s for free. If you want high quality and clarity and no jingles you go and buy a CD with your favorite artist. I don’t think people will stop collecting CD with their favorite artists.

    05 Jul 2007, 08:37

  2. Randy

    The purpose is the same: getting legally free music, the big difference is that you don’t sit waiting for the radio to air the favourite track, the tool records the desired music. So it’s a big plus, not having to sit arround and wait for a station to air the music you wish to record.
    As long as it is for personal use, there is nothing illegal in this process. In my oppinoin, Radiotracker only comes to help those who are already doing this for creating a music collection for themselves. And it’s a great help taking in consideration all the time you spend otherwise, waiting to “catch” the needed mp3.

    05 Jul 2007, 09:17

  3. Robert O'Toole

    recording off the radio is legal

    I don’t think that is the case. I can’t recall there being any special provision for this under UK copyright law, except for the usual permitted uses (e.g. presonal private study, criticism or review). Recording off-air for personal use is probably just accepted custom. Beyond personal use, we have the Educational Rights Agreement that allows us to record and redistribute terrestrial audio and TV on campus only.

    However, the BBC has clearly stated that recording of internet radio is not allowable, even for educational purposes. I think that means it is not covered by the ERA. They say that they don’t have rights agreements from the programme makers.

    Looks like another UK copyright mess.

    Personally, I want to be able to record the 6.30pm Radio 4 comedy shows, so that I can listen to them later on (rather than when I am feeding Lawrence The Human Pig). I recently tried a DAB radio with MP3 recording, but found DAB to be totally unreliable.

    11 Jul 2007, 15:32

  4. John Dale

    I want to be able to record the 6.30pm Radio 4 comedy shows, so that I can listen to them later on

    Exactly what I’m after, too. I’m wondering about a Griffin Radio Shark or a copy of SnapTune. Why isn’t there Tivo for FM radio, ideally with a “Send to my iPod” function too?

    11 Jul 2007, 15:38

  5. Robert O'Toole

    Why isn’t there Tivo for FM radio, ideally with a “Send to my iPod” function too?

    Odd that there aren’t any on the market. It would be so easy to add an mp3 recorder to a radio, with a timer function. In fact that is just what the DAB radio that I bought did (apart from the fact that reception was too poor to be useable). But it was the only device i could find.

    Is there some kind of conspiracy to stop this from happening? – considering what we know about corruption at the BBC?

    19 Jul 2007, 15:14

  6. Judith Calder

    So how do I record The Archers, then? And, of course, all the other favourites from Radio 4? When we are abroad I need occasionally to be parted from my laptop so having the programmes on my iPod is the obvious answer Where we are we can’t access BBC World Radio. I’d appreciate hints for dummies!

    27 Jul 2007, 09:46

  7. Sebastian

    Considering the all fairness of facts, Radiotracker costs money in the first place, so you can consider that like the flatrate you are paying for an online download service like iTunes or Napster. Second, making copies of songs that are aired publicly with no restrictions or payment whatsoever and keeping them for your own personal benefit, is legal all around this planet.

    Leaving all marketing quotes aside, Radiotracker gets you free and legal music from all around the world – true statement (except the initial payment for the software itself)

    04 Oct 2007, 15:57


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