Internet Radio Equality Act

Internet Radio Gets a Bit of a Reprieve

Yesterday, we finally got some news that was good regarding the copyright royalty rates to be paid by Internet radio stations. The Copyright Royalty Board decided to extend the deadline for paying the rates until July 15, 2007. The original due date was May 15, 2007.
As noted in my earlier post, the new rates (which are retroactive to January 2006) are much higher than previous rates and will prove disastrous for many webcasters. Quite a few operations will find they owe many times more than their actual revenue and will have to stop streaming on the Internet. The loss of variety of programming that we now enjoy on the Web will necessarily follow, and that’s bad for everyone; the artists, the record companies, the webcasters, and most of all the public.
Fortunately, the deadline extension gives democracy a chance to work. The “Internet Radio Equality Act” (H.R. 2060), which undoes the Copyright Royalty Board’s new rate structure, and puts in place safeguards for non-commercial webcasters, will have more time to wind its way through the legislative process and possibly even pass before July 15th.
To find out more, read my earlier blog post. If you want to weigh in on the issue, contact your congressman and ask him or her to co-sponsor H.R. 2060.

Keeping Music on Internet Radio

On March 2, 2007, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) released a decision that dramatically increases royalty payments owed to rights holders for streaming sound recordings of music over the Internet. The new royalty rates announced by the CRB are retroactive to January 2006, and they are so high that they threaten to shut down many, some fear most, webcasters. They go into effect May 15, 2007. (Update: The CRB has changed the deadline to July 15, 2007.)
The CRB’s decision also eliminates the distinction between noncommercial and commercial media, and it requires complicated record-keeping that places a huge burden on stations, most of whom (including WDAV) do not have the necessary information to keep such records. If allowed to stand, the CRB decision seems certain to drastically curtail the diversity of music programming now found on the Web, and it will have a negative impact on public radio’s ability to bring new and culturally enriching programming to the American public via the Internet. It also sets a chilling precedent for future rights discussions, negotiations and litigation that may undermine non-commercial public service programming.
But the last chapter in this story hasn’t been written, and there is a way you can make a difference.