As it becomes painfully obvious to the RIAA that suing individuals for music copyright infringement is about as fiscally logical as burning hundred-dollar bills to melt down pennies for copper, the now-infamous media group is seeking to generate revenue from more traditional avenues.
Both the RIAA and NAB (National Association of Broadcasters), who are often fierce opponents, are demanding US Congress pass a bill mandating the presence of FM radio receivers in all cellular phones. Why? The Benjamins, of course.
It's no secret that both radio broadcasters and record labels are losing revenue to digital distribution of music - legal and otherwise. Cell phones, though, offer a (relatively) untapped source of listeners for radio stations. In fact, mobile devices are large enough a source that the RIAA and NAB have hashed out a preliminary deal to exploit this growing market.
The chief principles of this tenuous pact? First, a mandate that all cellular phones be equipped with functional FM radio receivers. Second, that the NAB pay musicFIRST (a group of record labels and their related bodies, including the RIAA) around $100 million a year in royalties in exchange for increasing their listening audience. Currently, the NAB pays musicFIRST (and all artists/labels) $0.00 to play music on the radio.
This would be a drastic change from the current system, in which broadcasters pay only songwriter (not to be confused with artists) royalties to dish out tunes over the airwaves.
What does it mean for Android users? Google may be forced to include FM radio as a native part of Android in future builds, something they have so far left to device manufacturers. The passage of the bill won't do much to save dying record labels, but it may provide sought-after standardization of FM radio support in the Android OS.