Copycode & the Future of DAT DAT: The RIAA's Position

DAT: The RIAA's Position

The proposed action by the Congress of the United States will cripple the DAT machine and eventually make all forms of legal audio copying impossible. Well, since that time the National Bureau of Standards has ruled that the CBS Copycode audibly degrades sonic performance, triggers falsely, and can be easily defeated by someone with a little electronics knowledge. The RIAA reacted to this announcement by quickly abandoning their support for the CBS system, but warned that this retrenchment was not a signal that DAT could now be sold in the US and further stated that anyone who tries to bring a DAT recorder to market will be sued. Somewhat bothered by this still belligerent anti-DAT stance of the RIAA, I called their public relations department and spoke with Trish Heimers.— George Graves

Graves: Why is the RIAA seemingly picking on DAT?

Heimers: First of all, I'd like to take this opportunity to clear up an industry-wide misunderstanding: The RIAA is not against DAT! On the contrary, we welcome it. Without a healthy consumer audio market there would be no recorded music, just as without recorded music there would be no audio industry. We need each other and we need to move forward and meet the challenges of new technology. But what we, the RIAA, are mainly interested in is seeing that the thousands of artists, composers, arrangers, producers, engineers, and technicians who work in the recorded music business get paid for the work they do. That means that we are committed to putting a stop to the illegal copying of copyrighted material which costs the industry an estimated 1.5 billion dollars a year!

Graves: Does that mean that the RIAA is interested in stopping all copying?

Heimers: Obviously, we cannot stop all copying. There is no way that anyone could apply any new law or copy-proof technology to the millions of existing recording devices that are in the hands of consumers now. I mean, what are we going to do, place a policeman outside the door of every tape-recorder owner? No, that's impractical, and what's more it's not even what we would want to do. We have no objection to a consumer making a tape copy of a record he has purchased for use in, say, his car. But we do object to people borrowing their buddy's records and taping them. We would love to find a way to permit the former while not allowing the latter. We just don't know how that could be implemented.

Graves: In the wake of the NBS ruling on the CBS Copycode system, RIAA president Jason S. Berman vowed in March to sue any DAT manufacturer who dares to market a consumer machine in the US. This doesn't sound very pro-DAT to me.

Heimers: As new recording technologies become better and better, the possibility of the consumer making perfect copies of copyrighted material becomes more and more feasible. A consumer who can borrow or rent a CD and make a perfect copy of it is less likely to buy it. The DAT is the first such new technology to hit the shelves, and this makes it a landmark device. Without some type of copyright protection applied to these machines, the next new recording technology, whatever it might be, will have the precedent of the DAT to build upon; as time goes by, it will become less and less likely that any copyright protection will be forthcoming. By the threat of legal action, what we at the RIAA are really saying to the hardware manufacturers is this: "Let's sit down together and talk. Maybe we can come up with a solution to this problem which will not infringe on the consumers rights' to make legal copies, yet will provide the record industry some form of protection as well."

Graves: What about a tariff on blank tape?

Heimers: We tried that, but Congress didn't like the idea. They said that such an action was too broad-based. People who used tape for purposes other than home copying (such as musicians, producers, and recording engineers) would end up paying a tariff that they shouldn't have to pay.

Graves: So what's the answer?

Heimers: We don't know. We now feel that a Copycode scheme is wrong. We at the RIAA do not endorse anything which would sonically alter the work of recording artists. As soon as we found that the CBS system was audible, we withdrew our support for it. We welcome any reasonable suggestion. That is why we would like to sit down with the manufacturers; we need their input, their ideas. The best idea that anyone has come up with so far is a tape tariff. It has worked in other countries; there must be some way to make it work here. The RIAA would be content with that if it were fair.