The Copyright Office wants to ban iTunes

Fred “My Co-Worker” Von Lohmann has drafted a doozy of a comment to the FCC Copyright Office on their CARP proceeding to establish the rules for webcasting — rules that require webcasters to maintain invasive records on all their listeners’ habits. What’s more, these requirements would outright ban webcasting to open, unserialized players like iTunes, since the absence of a serial number would make it impossible to gather the stats.

Nevertheless, an ambiguity in the “Listener’s Log” provisions may create unintended uncertainty in the marketplace. Section 201.36(e)(3)(vi) requires logging of “the unique user identifier assigned to a particular user or session.” This provision may suggest to some a requirement that “serialized” player technologies must be used (e.g., player software with a unique, persistent serial number). A requirement of serialized players, however, would strongly favor proprietary server-player systems (such as those deployed by Microsoft and RealNetworks) at the expense of systems that support open streaming media standards (such as streaming MP3 or Ogg Vorbis). Services that choose to utilize an open standard, such as streaming MP3, are not in a position to insist that listeners use a serialized player, because listeners are free to choose any interoperable player. For example, because Shoutcast offers its webcasts in streaming MP3 format, listeners may tune in using Apple’s iTunes software, AOL’s WinAmp software, or any of a myriad of other MP3 player software, whether or not the software contains a unique serial number or similar identifier.

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