Pear Jam to Release Live Shows in MP3. Does This Violate Patent?

By Richard Menta 8/26/05

A year ago last May Clear Channel Communications purchased the patent owned by a company called DiscLive who developed a method for recording a live concert and having a CD of the show available for sale to concert goers within five minutes after it ended.

Immediately after acquiring this patent Clear Channel announced that it had the exclusive right to create such recordings, not just at the 130 venues it controlled, but anywhere. If a local band today were to record its own shows, burn and sell them to the crowd via CD they would be in violation of the patent and could be sued.

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So I wonder how this news I picked up from P2Pnet will play, because the Clear Channel patent is the first thing that came to mind when I read it. According to the article "Shades of Phish and other high profile bands that now claim the Net as Friend, not Enemy, Pearl Jam is promising DRM-free $10 'digital bootlegs' for most of its 2005 Canadian and US dates "just hours after each show has ended".

The fact that Pearl Jam is eschewing digital rights management is one thing. Using the MP3 format is another. MP3 is of course the only universal codec and the one most widely used by music lovers. Despite record industry rhetoric, the battle between Apple's proprietary version of the ACC codec and Microsoft's WMA is for a distant number two, not number one.

This is why Pearl Jam wisely chose to sell their music in MP3, no issues with playability. It also suggests that Clear Channel has no part in this endeavor. Why should they? After all, the patent covers CD delivery, not Net delivery.

Yet this is the type of thing a company like Clear Channel likes to sue about, because if they can convince a judge it applies they pick up a check every time someone puts a live recording online within a short window of time. Best of all they have to do nothing to earn that check other than exercise the patent.

Pearl Jam fought with Clear Channel for years over its concert venue monopoly, but in the end they could not win. It will be interesting to see if Clear Channel tries to make any claims. If they do and it goes to court it would be terrible if a court extended the Clear Channel's monopoly to the Internet.

Yes, terrible indeed.

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