Time Shifting Comes To Mercora

Well talk about flirting with danger… Mercora, one of my favorite programs on the Windows platform and promoter of P2P radio concept (More in Business 2.0) is bringing time shifting to its software, risking the ire of the close minded and super greedy Hollywood types. This is part of Mercora 3.0 which the company just released. The new software version allows users to search the network for available broadcasts by artist, genre and DJ/webcaster. Much in the way that Google allows users to search key terms, Mercora allows users to rapidly search for and listen to digital music.

I chatted with Srivats Sampath , the CEO of Mercora and he told me that the company has had over 1.5 million downloads and at any given time there are about 25,000 web-channels streaming across the Mercora network. I queried Sampath on the whole issue of time shifting, and wanted clarifications.

“Look if XM2Go is allowed time shifting, so are we,” he said. Sampath was pretty clear that he doesn’t see terristerial radio as competition but is ready to duke out with Satellite Radio. Satellite radio networks are offering anywhere between 70-to-200 channels on the net, and terrestrial radio is also going online. I just wonder how much appetite there is for online radio.

He said that the feature has been developed in strict compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the legality of time-shifting in the 1984 Sony-Betamax case. I badgered the poor man – pretty sure that the record industry was not going to like it. Anyway he explained that it is “only the streams which will be emerging from Canada will be able to recorded and time shifted on a single hard drive.” In other words, if you are in the US, and web casting, well, no time shifting for you!

US users can time shift content, however, they cannot time shift US webcasters. Time shifting for personal use is legal under US law, however, the statutory webcasting license in the US (DMCA) prohibits the webcaster from enabling listeners to time shift. This was a restriction that was put into the Internet webcasting license while NOT put in for the Satellite radio license. Since Mercora is the webcaster, we have to abide by this restriction and therefore do not let people time shift US webcasters, but enable time shifting of webcasts from our Canadian webcasting operation (since Canadian copyright law does not have this restriction on webcasers)

The company also has a business model – finally! The new software, called IM Radio, will be available in two versions—Premier and Basic. IM Radio Premier is available for $4.99 per month or $47.88 per year with unlimited listening and 10 hours of recording capability. IM Radio Basic is available free with 1 hour of listening per day.