Explanation and legal review of the H2O Audio PRO Series PLAYLIST+ feature and the US Copyright Laws.
The Pro Series headphones can be used with any Bluetooth® enabled music player device, such as a smartphone or computer, which can play music via an application (“app”) running on the player device. In the case of an app of a streaming music service (“streaming app”), the Playlist+ functionality enables a user of the Pro Series headphones to load streamed content in a memory in the headphones for later playing of the streamed content, such as when the user is outside of Bluetooth® range or in water where Bluetooth® signals do not propagate. The streamed content is stored in a file in the headphone’s memory and is played by software on the headphones. The Pro Series devices do not allow retransmission from the headphones of the stored content, but only playing of the stored content to the user through the headphone’s speakers.
Legal issues surrounding the storage of streamed content from a streaming app depend on several factors. One factor is the Terms and Conditions (“T&Cs”) for each streaming music service. We have reviewed such T&Cs of several streaming services, and they do not appear to prohibit storing a playlist locally on headphones for later personal, noncommercial use.
But a more important factor is Copyright law in the jurisdictions in which the streaming music services are used. In the United States, and as decided by the Supreme Court in Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 417 (1984), storing music for personal, noncommercial use is fair use, and the Pro Series headphones with Playlist+ functionality would not be considered to constitute contributory infringement of copyrighted streamed content that the user legally accesses from a streaming music service. Under Sony, “[t]he sale of copying equipment…does not constitute contributory infringement if the product is used for legitimate, unobjectional purposes, or, indeed, is merely capable of substantial noninfringing uses.” The Pro Series headphones can be used as normal Bluetooth® wireless headphones to play streamed content in real-time, or can use the Playlist+ feature for storing and later play of the streamed content received by the headphones via Bluetooth®.
Accordingly, the storage of Bluetooth®-streamed content by the Playlist+ feature of the Pro Series headphones, where the user has legally received the content to their headphones by using a streaming app, does not present a copyright issue in the United States.