In what could be interpreted as a senseless act of copyright fundamentalism, REELRADIO — which streams radio airchecks (recordings of DJs on the air, sometimes including the songs they play) — announced that it received a copyright compliance notice from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). REELRADIO has suspended streaming, and is no longer accepting new subscriptions or renewals, while it works out how to respond.
“The RIAA has determined that our service fails to meet the requirements for ‘archived programs’, which must be at least five hours in duration and may not be made available for more than two weeks. The service must also display the Title, Artist and Album of each featured song, but only while the recording is being performed,” according to the REELRADIO announcement.
The company notes that structural and technical facts prevent compliance with the RIAA request: “Obviously, we have no single airchecks with a duration of five hours, and our exhibits are permanent. Our current method for streaming content does not allow real-time metadata, such as artist and title, to be included in the media file.”
In addition to airchecks with full music included, REELRADIO streams so-called ‘scoped airchecks, where the music is telescoped into a few second by including only intros and outros. thast is a traditional audition aircheck, where the focus is on the DJ’s performance. REELRADIO says it might be possible to continue providing ‘scoped content, whatever happens with the RIAA compliance issue.
In our view, strict interpretations of copyright law, while legally correct, can contradict the intention of the content, without gaining any value for rights-holders. Generally, radio fans (especially vintage-radio fans and history buffs) do not listen to airchecks for the music, but for the DJs. While the RIAA policing machinery might be incapable of fine distinctions in use and publishing intent, we wish a human would step in.