Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Performance Rights Act (HR 848) Approved, on way to passing

The House Judiciary Committee approved the Performance Rights Act (HR 848) today, with 21 in favor, 9 not in favor.

It includes these rates that apply only to over the air broadcasts:

Any station that makes less than $100,000 annually will pay only $500 annually for unlimited use of music.

Any station that makes less than $500,000 but more than $100,000 annually will pay only $2500 (half of the amount in the original version of the bill) annually for unlimited use of music.

Any station that makes less than $1,250,000 but more than $500,000 annually will pay only $5000 (unchanged since the bill was introduced)) annually for unlimited use of music.

The bill also includes a statement of "Parity for all radio services" which establishes a “placeholder” standard to determine a fair rate for all radio services that will encourage negotiations between the stakeholders

As I've mentioned before compared to AM/FM broadcasters, Webcasters currently get a really bad deal: A webcaster with 1.25 million in revenue would be paying about $140,000 while an over-the-air broadcaster would only pay $5000. A webcaster with $250,000 in revenue would be paying $25,000 a year while an over-the-air station would pay 1/10th that.

SomaFM joined over 300 other broadcasters in signing a letter to Chairman Conyers and Ranking Member Smith [PDF] asking them to amend the Performance Rights Act to extend small broadcaster protections to small webcasters.

On the webcasters side, Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California spoke passionately and convincingly of this need to extend small broadcaster royalty limits to small webcasters. Unfortunately, a specific webcaster inclusion was not put in this version of the bill, so we'll need to do more lobbying of Congress to get it included in the final bill.

In related news, The Webcaster Settlement Act of 2009 was also introduced. The text is basically the same as the WSA 2008, the biggest difference being instead of a specific date for submitting deals for publication (a deadline which has already passed) the new bill gives 30 days from enactment to finalize deals.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Webcasters deserve the same deal as over-the-air Broadcasters

The terrestrial broadcast performance royalty bill, officially known as "The Performance Rights Act" (H.R. 848) [alternative link], will also be considered by the House Judiciary Committee today. Unlike webcasters, the rate would be $5000 a year for stations with revenues up to 1.25 million dollars. A webcaster with 1.25 million in revenue would be paying about $140,000 a year to play the same music.

Doesn't seem fair does it?

If this indeed passes, and there is a good likelihood it will, then we need to demand that webcasters who broadcast non-interactive radio streams should also get to pay those same rates.

Here's the relevant text from the bill:

SEC. 3. SPECIAL TREATMENT FOR SMALL, NONCOMMERCIAL, EDUCATIONAL, AND RELIGIOUS STATIONS AND CERTAIN USES.

(a) Small, Noncommercial, Educational, and Religious Radio Stations-

(1) IN GENERAL- Section 114(f)(2) of title 17, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

(D) Notwithstanding the provisions of subparagraphs (A) through (C), each individual terrestrial broadcast station that has gross revenues in any calendar year of less than $1,250,000 may elect to pay for its over-the-air nonsubscription broadcast transmissions a royalty fee of $5,000 per year, in lieu of the amount such station would otherwise be required to pay under this paragraph. Such royalty fee shall not be taken into account in determining royalty rates in a proceeding under chapter 8, or in any other administrative, judicial, or other Federal Government proceeding.

(E) Notwithstanding the provisions of subparagraphs (A) through (C), each individual terrestrial broadcast station that is a public broadcasting entity as defined in section 118(f) may elect to pay for its over-the-air nonsubscription broadcast transmissions a royalty fee of $1,000 per year, in lieu of the amount such station would otherwise be required to pay under this paragraph. Such royalty fee shall not be taken into account in determining royalty rates in a proceeding under chapter 8, or in any other administrative, judicial, or other Federal Government proceeding.'.

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