Streaming-music recorder in murky legal waters

Songbeat takes aim at the digital-downloading business with its new player, which can record music streams from across the Web. But is it just like radio to cassette?

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

Songbeat, a new start-up that takes aim at the file-sharing industry, has launched in the United States. Although it claims that its stream-recording functionality is legal because it doesn't use peer-to-peer technology to bypass copyright protection, it may not be so clear-cut.

Songbeat's software is downloaded to the user's Windows-based machine and allows the user to search for any music they desire, and then stream it directly to their computer through services like SeeqPod and Project Playlist. They can then record it to their hard drive or burn the song directly to a disc.

The software also allows users to record songs directly from Last.fm, owned by CNET News publisher CBS. By entering the name of an artist in Last.fm, the service will start streaming songs, which can be recorded in Songbeat.

Viability of downloading streaming songs aside, the legality of using Songbeat is in question. Songbeat claims that this form of "downloading" is legal in Germany, where it is based, and is nothing more than "the digital version of sitting by your old radio, waiting for your favorite show, armed with a blank cassette."

I doubt that the RIAA will approve of a desktop service downloading tracks directly from popular Web music streams without paying royalties. But for now, the company is operating without any interference from the music industry.

Recording the first 25 songs is free on Songbeat. Once that limit is reached, users will be required to make a $29.99 one-time payment to record an unlimited number of tracks.