Is Recording Streaming Public Radio Piracy?


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TechDirt.Com and Mike Masnick posted a story today about WNYC, public radio in New York, and how they have disabled Flip4Mac, an app which allows listeners to record and manipulate Windows video and audio files.

The main premise of the story was that fans who pledge money to WNYC on a regular basis were being cut-off from maximizing the broadcasts (in this case, a show called ON the Media) with this tool. The station's stance is that it is piracy. What they refer to in the story as "time shifting" equates to no more than possessing thee ability to capture, rewind, fast-forward, and pause what is otherwise a live stream.

Trey Harris, a devoted supporter and fan of public radio spoke out against this apparent ban on his Flip4Mac application and asserted that he indeed did not pirate the broadcast, but aimed to simply to get more out of it by utilizing the "time shifting" to study it closer.

This makes great sense, in much the same way we use a DVR or VCR, you can rewind and hear the things you missed or go back to a section later. A representative from WNYC contacted Mr. Harris and enlightened him further after his public protest.

He elaborates:

"She agreed that if I used a tape recorder, or a digital recorder, to store the over-the-air broadcast, I could listen to it later, pause, rewind, etc. But she said when it went over the Internet it was different. I brought up the TiVo example, and she responded that video-on-demand programs often disallow fast-forwarding."

In any event it is upsetting for someone who didn't do anything wrong, but rather was choosing to use the technology to enhance his listening experience. Apparently there is no law which actually prohibits the practice and intact, there are many sites who feature the service.

I chose to write about it here to spread awareness of the issue. You can read a bit more about WNYC public radio and Trey Harris by following the link on his name. I am a big supporter of public radio and think it is a valuable service of the community. Hopefully this issue will get sorted out in a manner that satisfies fans and broadcasters alike.