25-May-2004 (Tue)
Wherein we once again feel the love for Great Satan ClearChannel.

You may recall that earlier this month I mentioned attending a show where CDs of that night's performance were available immediately after the show, and how cool I thought that was.

Well, ClearChannel is going to put a stop to that, by golly! In case there was any doubt that ClearChannel is the Great Satan, check this out: Clear Channel Limits Live CDs: Company to block bands from selling instant albums.

The recording-and-burning company DiscLive estimated on April 12th that it would gross $500,000 selling live discs this spring alone. But in a move expected to severely limit the industry, Clear Channel Entertainment has bought the patent from the technology's inventors and now claims to own the exclusive right to sell concert CDs after shows. The company, which is the biggest concert promoter in the world, says the patent covers its 130 venues along with every other venue in the country.

"We want to be artist-friendly," says Steve Simon, a Clear Channel executive vice president and the director of Instant Live. "But it is a business, and it's not going to be 'we have the patent, now everybody can use it for free.'"

"It's one more step toward massive control and consolidation of Clear Channel's corporate agenda," says String Cheese Incident manager Mike Luba, who feuded with Clear Channel last year after promoters blocked the band from using CD-burning equipment.

The Pixies, who are booking a fall reunion tour with several probable Clear Channel venues, say Clear Channel has already told them DiscLive can't burn and sell CDs on-site. "Presuming Clear Channel's service and product are of equal quality, it may be best to feed the dragon rather than draw swords," says Pixies manager Ken Goes. "Still, I'm not fond of doing business with my arm twisted behind my back."

Apparently the patent in question is US Patent 6,614,729, issued September 2, 2003. It is, as you would presumably expect, bullshit. From what I can tell, what the so-called "inventors" have patented is this process:

  • Record audio digitally;
  • Manually divide the stream into "tracks" as it is coming in;
  • When finished, send the tracks to multiple CD burners.

The United States Patent Office has found this "invention" to be so novel that is has granted a twenty year monopoly to the "inventors." This means that ClearChannel will get to decide who, if anybody, can make on-the-spot recordings of any concert until 2023.

19 Responses:

  1. mactavish says:

    I winced, going to see Great Big Sea at the Fillmore (glances over at Bill spinning in his grave) this year. It was nice that they could choose an all-ages venue, but . . . ow.

  2. tongodeon says:

    Wouldn't "prior art" exist for "live recordings", in the form of thousands and thousands of hippies at Dead shows for the past several decades?

    • lars_larsen says:

      I myself have set up a computer in a theater and recorded a live concert directly to disk, seperated the tracks manually, and burned to a CD.

      *I* am prior art. Biznatches!

      • jwz says:

        Part of what sucks about patents like this is (as I understand it) that unless you also burned multiple copies of that recording and distributed them that night, you don't have prior art for this patent (only a piece of it.)

        Also, you have to pay a lawyer to challenge it; just informing the patent office isn't enough to get them to re-examine it.

  3. inoshiro says:

    There has to be major prior art for this. It's a simple, obvious technique. It's like having a person with a damned VHS VCR recording the shown, hitting pause and record as the songs roll off, allowing VISS to act as track markers.

    It's fucking simple, it's fucking easy, and it's fucking possible with 20-year-old technology, so how how is this patent on-obvious to people who know how to do this with anything from an N-Gage to a Palm Pilot to a VCR to a computer?

    I think it'd make a lot of people happy if the money Clear Channel spent buying that patent was wasted, because their fancy bought patent was shown to be invalid. Hopefully someone in the US catches on to this and wants to fight it.

  4. brad says:

    Talk to the pubpat.org guys, as well as the EFF with their new anti-stupid-patent group. Both those groups have the charter that they'll step-up and press the USPTO to reevaluate a patent once a company starts enforcing it.

  5. baconmonkey says:

    um, you and many other people out there have collaborated on this technology in the past.
    I stream audio from a DNA show, and record the audio to disk.
    then I burn a CD from that audio.

    The funny part is where they, in order to dazzle the poor patent clerk with techno-jumbo, go on at length about how CDs and CDRs are made. The only thing novel about that, is arguing that when used by "authorized" folks, it could help fight the War On Bootleggers. The excuses thy give for fighting live-concert bootleggers is ridiculous. when was the last time you saw a bootleg live cd? also, it's generally the die-hard fans, the ones who own all of a band's cds that are most interested in bootlegs, not the casual consumer, who has to decide between buying a bootleg cd, or a legit studio cd as their single cd from that band.

    • otterley says:

      I believe the novelty that is the "meat" of the patent -- and one that I suspect prior-art hunters are going to have difficulty finding -- is the incremental parallel recording of the target CDs while the live concert is in progress.

      • baconmonkey says:

        which is, amongst the goofiest, and most pointless parts of the patent.
        with 56x burners, a 70 minute cd takes a theoretical 1.25 minutes to burn. Burning track-at-once with a changer ends up wasting soooo much time compared with just burning the disc straight through. if you have two 56x burners for every merch sales person, you could create them faster than it takes to run transactions, even if every single person buying merch gets a cd.

        No, the novelty is vague allusions to streaming off chunks to make track deliniations easier, and to remove unnecessary audio. But the parts that will make the patent crumble, are how it makes vague allusions to how parts of the system can be ommitted. Were that binding, burning an audio CDR of a studio session would require paying clearchannel licensing fees.

        I really hate the growing phenomenon of "it's just easier to pay the protection money licensing fees instead of fighting it"

  6. baconmonkey says:

    wait a sec, is this not prior art?

    "We'd like to see this industry opened up to everybody," says Erik Stubblebine, founder and vice president of Hyburn, a Phoenix company that has sold instant CDs for dozens of concerts in the past three years. "They're trying to squeeze us."

    2001 is before 2003, unless things have changed recently.

  7. fo0bar says:

    I did this fucking *7 years ago*, recording a school band concert via a computer hooked up to the auditorium mixing board, splitting into tracks, then burning. Of course not many copies were available immediately after the concert, considering they were being burned on 2x burners, but it was the same process.

    jesus christ.

  8. operatic says:

    So those USB keyring drive recordings aren't covered by Clear Channel's patent (yet), right?

    • mattallen says:

      I think a lawyer would argue a Key Chain drive is pretty much a recording device, abeit 1 and 0's.

      So you'd be screwed over anyway.

      The way I see it there are a few things you can do to not infringe.
      a) use 1 media recorder. The patent states explicitly "plurality of media recorders". So use 1 really fast recorder.
      b) Use no "editing module", thus removing a required component for infringing.
      c) Find a way for the "event-capture module" to not make the "primary event file" accessible as the recording is taking place.

      Do all 3 and I think you could pretty much stick it to the man.

  9. coldacid says:

    What if you don't seperate them into tracks? Just do a 74/80 minute long track on each CD? It may suck in terms of seeking and such, but it'll shove the shit back in CC's face, won't it?

  10. Okay, fine. So write it out to DAT/audio tape/mp3s-written-to-3"-CDs instead. (I suppose the patent's probably vague enough to prohibit that too, though.)