New York Times personal technology columnist David Pogue recently covered a new web site called DAR.fm that allows any user to record any radio station that’s available on the internet. The site has a schedule database for many, but not all stations, which permits you to look up and schedule a recording of most major syndicated programs, in addition to many local programs. Once recorded you can listen to the shows online, download them or listen to them on a mobile device using an app.
I have only begun to test out the service, but I think it’s a great idea. While I can certainly go ahead and install a stream recorder application on my computer, it’s up to me to figure out when the show I want to record will be on and what station broadcasts it. Then I have to leave my computer running in order to catch the recording. None of this is too onerous, but it’s also not terrifically convenient. Using DAR.fm is like using a TiVo to record and watch television, while using a stream recorder on your PC is like using a VCR. On top of that DAR lets you listen to that recording anywhere.
Like Pogue I wonder about the legality of this service. It’s one thing to give someone the ability to schedule and record shows on her own computer for personal use; this is covered by the Supreme Court’s Betamax decision. However, doing the same thing on a centralized server, while giving users the ability to identify and download particular songs from a stream, is a whole other situation. I haven’t had a chance to research this thoroughly, but I’m guessing that it’s not long before either the RIAA or a broadcaster finds a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in this service.
However, the man behind DAR.fm is Michael Robertson who previously battled the record industry at the turn of the century with MP3.com. With DAR.fm Robertson claims that the 2008 lawsuit Cartoon Network v. Cablevision clears the way. In this case the judge ruled that a cable company can store recordings of programs requested by customers on its own servers instead of on a device in customers’ homes. Of course, just because there appears to be a useful legal precedent that doesn’t mean a deep-pocketed opponent (like the RIAA) still won’t try to test it in court.
According to a recent post on Robertson’s blog, Grace Digital has a new internet radio coming out that works with DAR.fm, putting the recording scheduling function on the radio itself. This brings the whole idea one step closer to the TiVo appliance model.
I do think this service is good for radio in general, but I’m not sure it is likely to have the same widespread effect of the TiVo and PVR. Had it debuted ten years ago I think the impact would have been greater. But now, as consolidated commercial radio has already alienated a generation of listeners, I think the best it can hope for is to become a niche service, not much more popular than satellite radio.
Enjoy it while it lasts.
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