Internet Pirate Radio

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Elliotte Rusty Harold proposes pirate radio as the solution to the problem posed by the Copyright Royalty Board decision (see The Death of Internet Radio.)

The RIAA’s Internet radio purge is a temporary glitch, nothing more. Uncensored, free Internet radio is here to stay. The most the RIAA can hope to do is inconvenience a few American hobbyists for a few weeks before they find better solutions. The most they will do is transfer airtime from their artists to independents. Heck, if that means we don’t have to endure quite so many headlines about Britney shaving her head, I can only applaud. Go RIAA Go! We could never destroy you as fast as you’re destroying yourself.

This may be too optimistic. If you live in the United States and operate a pirate radio station from a server in a “friendly” country, you may get away with it as long as you are obscure enough, but if you are too successful the RIAA and its friends would have many ways to retailiate against you.

If they can identify you they can bring civil and criminal charges against you, and past experience suggests that there are many ways that they could identify you. For one thing, the U.S. is constantly pressuring other countries to adopt American-style copyright laws, so that “friendly” country could become unfriendly without warning.

Even if they don’t identify you they can use the DMCA to keep U.S.-based web sites and search engines from linking to you. They might even get U.S. ISPs to block access to your IP address. This has never been done in the United States, but it is common in other countries.

What about the idea of making deals with the individual artists so that you can broadcast their songs legally? That’s fine if you have a team of lawyers working for you, but it’s probably impractical for low-budget garage operations. Remember, to be safe you would need to get a sign-off from everyone who might possibly be involved in the creation of a song or video. Just identifying the copyright holders is often impossible, even for big publishers. The only thing certain is that if you make enough money from a work, someone will eventually show up demanding it.