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« Do Schools Teach Legal Self-Defense? | Main | Yes, Call Congress to Ask for a Halt to Copyright Charges »

March 5, 2007

Copyright Office Set to Kill Web Radio

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Radio Paradise is begging for help. No, this is not the usual "please make donations so we can continue to be free" kind of request that RP and other listener-supported radio stations make This time it's "please stop the US Copyright Office from killing us."

For quite a while, digital (Web) radio has had to pay significantly higher performance royalty rates than analog broadcast services. In effect, analog radio gets for free what Web radio pays through the nose to stream. That has hampered the growth of the industry and stifled any number of free, independent and likely new creative Web radio initiatives. But it gets worse.

On March 1 of this year, the Board issued new rates and decided to base those rates on a "per play" computation scheme championed by (wait for it...) the RIAA. The computation itself is based off an assumption of mass audience and significant commercial revenue. If you're a big Clearchannel station the assumptions behind this new fee schedule make total sense.

However, if you're small/independent/not-for-profit or otherwise outside the big media mainstream, well, you're screwed. RAIN (Radio And Internet Newsletter) has a concise breakdown of the fee schedule, and agrees with RP's claim that the schedule amounts to over 100% of station revenues in a typical situation.

What can we do? I'm honestly not sure. I know that ratepayers affected by the Copyright Board's decision have a time period to appeal. RP asked for people to blog about it, digg it, make the public aware, and so I'm doing that. I don't see any obvious mechanism under which the Copyright Office is collecting citizen comments - perhaps a message from Congress is required?

Comments (7) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Laws and Regulations


1. Another Kevin on March 5, 2007 7:32 PM writes...

What to do? Look to history.

Back in the dawn of radio, ASCAP demanded royalties that few if any radio stations could afford. The radio stations responded, "fine, ASCAP, take your hits and put them where the sun don't shine." They booked independent artists and formed a new collecting society, "Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI)." ASCAP found that its artists got no radio play, and BMI's artists got much better record sales. Eventually, ASCAP was forced to agree to today's system of compulsory licensing.

I foresee Web radio doing the same thing; artists that consider obscurity a far greater evil than piracy will be eager to sign with a putative Digital Artists' Collecting Society (or even release their works under Creative Commons?). Outfits like Radio Paradise will suffer short-term from not being able to play the current hits, but in the long run, Internet radio will make the hits.

Unfortunately, the MAFIAA is so very greedy that I see what I've described as the best possible outcome. I'd also speculate that the MAFIAA may get its way through the use of a "DRM imprimatur" - require all playback devices to verify the digital signature of material to be played (to guard against piracy, of course!) and make signing keys available only to the big labels. Outlawing playback devices that can handle the work of independent artists is, I'm sure, the record executives' dream. I can see it coming true.

Permalink to Comment

2. Maco on March 15, 2007 5:25 PM writes...

Surely you could just move your host to a sensible country. US internet radio gets global listeners. As do UK, Rusiian, Austrian, etc.
This seems a pointless excersise.

More backwards legislation.

Permalink to Comment

3. valintine on March 16, 2007 11:39 PM writes...

yes rp...canada loves you come here

Permalink to Comment

4. travisty on March 20, 2007 9:37 AM writes...

sounds to me like webcasters have an obsolete business model and should consider evolving to something that works better if they want to survive...


Permalink to Comment

5. peterg22 on March 25, 2007 3:57 AM writes...

You don't make it any easier do you? Okay, so i'm sitting here in Woking, UK (England) listening to internet radio. I love it. I seriously don't want to lose it. Don't force me to listen to 24 hours of pure unadulterated PAP that our broadcasting services pump out.

But can I sign the petition?

> Eligible signatories: U.S. citizens & legal residents

Sometimes words fail me. The world does not end at Ellis Island, and the Internet extends around the rest of the world.

Permalink to Comment

6. peterg22 on April 25, 2007 3:11 PM writes...

Still no word from anyone. How disappointing. Obviously the world does end at Ellis Island. You can rest assured though that I have been listening to Internet Radio again lately, just not American stations.

Permalink to Comment

7. Bob on February 19, 2009 1:02 PM writes...

I am totally sold on WPRR 1680 AM. Anyone in the Grand Rapids area should tune into their programming and give them a listen. It’s the replacement for the old Radio Disney, but the new format is pretty amazing, especially considering the standard fare that we get from radio broadcasts in Grand Rapids. Anyway, they have a streaming cast on their page at They’ve got great educational, progressive programming that is both locally produced and taken from the Pacifica Radio network from around the country. A friend of mine suggested I tune into the “Infidel Guy”, who I guess is pretty popular for his podcasts online, but it was surprising to find such content being broadcast over the air in Grand Rapids, Michigan of all places. Agree or disagree with the opinions, it is refreshing new content for listener supported radio in West Michigan.

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