July 13, 2004

Hatch's Hit List #3 - AM/FM Transmitters

What is Hatch's Hit List? Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has introduced the Inducing Infringment of Copyrights Act (IICA, née INDUCE Act) in the Senate. The bill would make it illegal to "intentionally induce" copyright infringement, but is worded so broadly that it would have all sorts of unintended consequences, one of which is to severely limit, cripple or kill innovation in many different fields. Hatch's Hit List is a daily exploration of some of the technologies and fields that the bill would likely affect. See also, Introducing Hatch's Hit List.

Today on Hatch's Hit List: AM/FM Transmitters

Another of the points that I want to emphasize with Hatch's Hit List is that inducement is not simply limited to the right of reproduction or making copies, but you can get in trouble for inducing actions that violate any of the the exclusive rights in 17 USC 106. Today's technology is an example of a device that can induce public performance.

Ramsey Electronics is a very cool company that provides all sorts of neat electronics equipment and kits for hobbyists and professionals. This isn't gear that you just order and pull out of the box in operating condition, but a lot of the time you're going to have to spend several hours with a soldering iron and testing rig to put it together.

Some of their most popular kits are AM/FM transmitters that you can use at home. Basically, its like running a very low power radio station. Once built, all you have to do is plug it in and insert a stereo jack connected to an audio source. Bingo! You're broadcasting.

Why would you want to? According to the website:

Unless you have a whole house sound system installed, you listen to your CD’s etc. in the room where your stereo is. If your house is like mine, sometimes “Mom” wants to watch the TV when you want music. An FM broadcaster connects directly to the line output from your CD player/changer, or to one of the tape-out connections on your receiver. It then broadcasts to any FM radio in your house or yard. Depending on the model you choose and your location, range is 1/4 mile or more under optimum conditions.
You know, they actually work pretty good. I built one that my brother uses at his home. It is connected to the stereo out of his PC's soundcard and now he can listen to his MP3s on his shower radio in the morning or from the boombox in his gym/garage. But then again, so can the neighbors, which makes it a public performance.

In fact I must say that Ramsey is encouraging public performance. From the description of the FM10C model (the type my brother has):

Here is a great entry-level kit that will teach the basics of FM Broadcast Transmission while finding many uses around the home or dorm room. [Why do you need to broadcast in a dorm room unless you plan to broadcast to the entire dorm?] The FM10C has plenty of power to cover your home, back yard, or city block. [City block ... the copyright lawyers smile.] Our manual goes into great detail outlining all the aspects of antennas, transmitting range and the FCC rules and regulations. [Ah, but the manual doesn't talk about copyright law. Pity that.] You’ll be amazed at the exceptional audio quality of the FM10C...Re-broadcast your favorite music commercial free and with the dynamic range the musician intended, without all that nasty compression the big boys use to make their station sound louder than the competition. ["Favorite music" certainly refers to copyrighted works. This is clearly inducement to public performance.]
Betcha Ramsey Electronics isn't thinking about the secondary copyright liability they may be setting themselves up for here.

Of course, this particular example may seem far removed from your home, but perhaps not for long. How much different is WiFi from FM transmitting? Won't everything have WiFi? Wouldn't it be cool if it did? Well, those sponsoring the INDUCE Act probably don't think so.

Posted by Ernest at 7:17 AM
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Hatch's Hit List Continued

Excerpt: Ernest, from The Importance of… expands Hatch’s Hit List: * Hatch's Hit List #2 - 3D Printers * Hatch's Hit List #3 - AM/FM Transmitters * Hatch's Hit List #4 - Arcade Emulators It is important to demonstrate that this law will affect a w...

Read the rest...

Trackback from Alex Jones, Jul 14, 2004 2:49 PM

I used to have an FM transmitter like this when I lived in a basement apartment. It allowed me to continue to listen to music as I moved around the apartment by having a radio in each room set at a low volume rather than crank up the volume on my main stereo and disturb the neighbors upstairs.
Yes, some of the neighbors could technically listened to it if they wanted to but the range was pretty limited (particularly since the transmitter was underground) and it only broadcast when I was playing music or the TV.
The considerate neighbors upstairs were eventually replaced by an asshole. He also broadcast his music so neighbors could hear. Only he didn't use an FM transmitter. He used a loud stereo. Unlike the FM transmitter, we didn't have the option to not listen. Therefore, the FM transmitter was clearly the civilized approach.

Posted by Mark Whitis on July 16, 2004 12:59 AM | Permalink to Comment

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