Tunein has legal issues

From the very beginning almost 20 years ago, I’ve been reluctant to facilitate direct access to radio stations’ streams because of concerns that copyright holders might believe that I owe them royalties.


If you have used tunein, you can see it very directly starts streaming the radio content. Taking it one step further, Alexa bounces off iHeartRadio, radio.com or tunein to immediately connect to the radio station – generally bypassing pre-stream advertisements – and obviously intelligent assistants generally don’t have a screen to show a video ad. This means little or no income to the radio station, but the radio station incurs the licensing costs of the music on the stream.

Tunein is being sued in the United Kingdom by the record labels on the basis that they are not licensed to play music. Tunein’s position is that they are nothing but a sophisticated search engine like Google.

In the first round, the court decided that what tunein was doing was OK as long as the music was licensed for radio stations in the UK. However, if UK listener listens to a non-UK radio station (like in the US), tunein owed royalties, so they ceased allowing UK listeners to hear radio outside the Kingdom. Early on, Clear Channel had the same issue with Canada, and blocked access to U.S. stations for listeners in Canada.

Several users here repeatedly tried to throw me under the bus on this issue, wanting to spread knowledge in the blog of how to use streaming programs and techniques to listen to radio stations without proper authorization from the radio stations or the music rights organizations.

That ruling doesn’t even cover the case of where a stream it is not a radio station. What responsibility would I have if I promoted the stream of a teenager in his basement streaming music without paying royalties? That is why the list is restricted to FCC licensed radio stations that have a presumption they have proper licensing in place. I had no desire to be the intermediary demanding that people show me their stinking licenses. So for most of the time, the most I do is take you to the website of the radio station, exactly as if you had gone there from Google.

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