Thursday, October 15, 2009

Senate Judiciary passes Performance Rights Ace

Nasdaq wire is reporting The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved a bill to require radio stations to pay royalties to performers when their music is aired. (Music First representatives have also confirmed this.)

While the bill is still a long way from passing, this is the most important hurdle it needed to clear.

I have mixed feeling about this. While I don't think it's fair that one group (terrestrial radio) gets to use something for free that another group (digital broadcasters) has to pay a large fee to use. (We pay 10-12% of our revenues because we're a "small webcaster", large webcasters like Pandora have to pay 25% of their revenues just to cover the sound recording copyright. (BMI,SESAC,ASCAP royalties for the underlying composition amount to another 4-5%).

The more commercial indie labels I talk to all want a reasonable royalty that's consistent across similar platforms (analog or digital). They value the exposure they get from the radio, but they're also looking for additional streams of revenue. I can understand that.

There are also plenty of netlabels and very indie-artist run labels who aren't to the stage of "maximizing revenues" from their portfolio of works, and are more interested in getting the free publicity that radio offers them. To many labels, the exposure is much more important than the royalty revenue.

My fear is that despite the intentions of MusicFirst, soon after this gets passed, the RIAA labels will band together to raise the rates paid by the over the air guys to match the levels paid by (and that some say is bankrupting) internet broadcasters.

And if that happens it will be the end of terrestrial broadcast music. The only thing on the FM dial will be talk shows, religious and spanish programming. And that will be kind of sad. And ultimately not serving to the music industry.

Hopefully, my fear won't come to pass.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

You have to pay them to play their stuff?

SomaFM listener Robert hits the radio royalty thing on the head:
Beginning with iTunes and through that my intro to your excellent station, I was not listening to music at all. For me was impossible to listen too on a lot of levels. So you introduced me to electronica, remix jazz and the like. Well now I am looking at my purchased iTunes library with  1700 + songs. I was thinking; "You have to pay them to play their stuff?", they should be paying you for bringing them customers like me , where else am I or anybody else going to hear this. Personally I like listening to music again, Thank You!
Most of the indie artists we play feel this way, and many of the independent labels feel this way too. For the most part, it's the big labels with lots of back-catalog that don't see the value in radio play.

If the royalties we pay were much lower (in line with what is proposed for terrestrial radio), this wouldn't be a big issue. But considering that SoundExchange is now pushing for higher and higher rates, there isn't much hope of our getting a royalty rate on par with what the terrestrial guys will likely get.

Looks like our ultimate solution will be directly licensing tracks from artists and indie labels, and play less and less music from the big labels. (We already play less than 20% of our music from big labels, so that won't be too hard.)

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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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Monday, February 16, 2009

NAB and SoundExchange make deal.

Radio Ink and other journals are reporting that NAB and SoundExchange have made a deal:

"The new agreement keeps the per-performance rate structure but reduces the rates set by the Copyright Royalty Board for 2009 and 2010 by about 16 percent and establishes rates for 2011-2015. This year's rate is $0.0015 per streamed recording, moving up to $0.0025 in 2015. The CRB rates were $0.0018 for 2009 and $0.0019 for 2010."

For a station that plays music 24/7, and assuming 10 songs per hour, this equates to about $11 (in 2009) scaling to $18 (in 2015) per concurrent listener per month (or AQH persons) for their internet broadcasts... or in listener hours, 1.5 cents (2009) to 2.5 cents (2015) per listener hour per month for internet streams.

For a station doing 150,000 hours a month (205 average concurrent listeners per month) that would be around $2250 a month in SoundExchange royalties. 150,000 hours a month is typical of a lot of larger-market FM simulcast netcasts, to that's a typical number.

But we have way more listeners on net than that, and do more like 3 million listener hours (counting only US listeners). So SomaFM would be paying over $45,000 a MONTH at these rates. (Actually more, because without commercials, we play more songs per hour than an AM/FM station does.)

The only way this makes sense for broadcasters is if they're predominately talk or they're getting waivers in exchange for airplay of tracks.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

SoundExchange Offers Settlement To Webcasters

Billboard is reporting that SoundExchange has made a new settlement offer to webcasters: but it's not the results of negotiation, it's a unilateral offer, and it's ultimately won't work for webcasters like SomaFM.

I'm quoted in the Billboard article saying:

"'We're disappointed with the offer,' says Rusty Hodge, founder of SomaFM. 'It effectively is worse that the previous [one]. Basically SoundExchange has done nothing to comprise with webcasters at all.'"

This hasn't been a negotiation. This has been a series of offers that gets worse each time. The original SWSA passed in 2002 was better than the current offer. The offer made about 18 months ago was the same as the current offer except that there were less strings attached; and because at that point, the offer only applied to SoundExchange member artists.

The current offer is just the same old offer with more restrictions and limitations. There has been no compromise. Every counter-offer webcasters make is met with a less-desirable offer from SoundExchange.

The really big issue for SomaFM is the traffic limits of 5 million monthly aggregate tuning hours. While that number sounds big, in January, we did did about 6.2 million. 5 million monthly tuning hours equates to 6720 average concurrent listeners. And the SoundExchange offer technically applies to US-only listener hours, which is about 50-55% of our listeners, so we're still technically under the limit. But this means that as we grow in the future we're going to hit that cap, and we'll be forced to limit the number of listeners we have.

The big RIAA labels are threatened by independent internet broadcasters and want to make sure that we're constrained to a niche market.

We're very disappointed with this so-called "offer".

The RIAA is still out to kill off independent webcasters like SomaFM.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

SoundExchange Royalty Update

A lot of people have asked if we've gotten everything settled with SoundExchange yet. Unfortunately, the answer is no. Basically, SoundExchange is in negotiations with some of the larger webcasters represented by DiMA. Once those negotiations have concluded, SoundExchange will then be negotiations with the small webcasters. I'm expecting that it won't be until Feb 2009 when the agreement is finalized.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Wasn't internet radio killed last year?

KG Writes in:
I thought internet radio was killed last year. What gives?

SomaFM and most other internet broadcasters have technically been operating "out of compliance" (that is, we're not paying the royalties we are supposed to be paying). At some point, we can't keep doing this... someone will sue us for copyright infringement. SoundExchange has informally agreed to not sue any broadcasters who continue negotiations with them, that's why stations are still on the air. Other large services like iMeem and Last.FM have made direct deals with the large record labels, in most cases resulting in the "Big 4" record labels owning a part of those companies. (And with that ownership comes influence over the music they feature.)

So making a deal with the big record labels is not acceptable for most broadcasters who strive to be independent in the music they broadcast.

We have continued to negotiate with SoundExchange (the agency that collects the royalties) over the last year, and are close to a settlement. Originally, one problem was that a SoundExchange settlement would only cover their members, and not apply to all music as the CRB ruling did, unless congress acted to codify any settlements. HR. 7084 which was recently signed into law, does exactly that: it tells the CRB that they have to codify any settlement internet broadcasters and SoundExchange agree to. This is the only way we can get the royalties reduced to a reasonable level.

Internet radio is running on borrowed time. But even without a deal, big, venture-capital funded services like Pandora will likely survive in a slightly altered form: they'll have to make deals with all the major labels which will cause them to lose some of their independence. But small stations like SomaFM will be put out of business: either by lawsuits from the RIAA if we continue to operate without paying the royalty fees or more likely by just not having enough money to continue our operations after paying all these royalties.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

H.R.7084 passed in the Senate!

Monday, September 29, 2008

NAB drops opposition to HR 7084

I just got a call from Dennis Wharton at NAB, who told me that the NAB is now supporting the bill.

From what I'm reading on cnet and a few other places, NAB was concerned that they wouldn't get their own deal in time and didn't want to have web-only broadcasters get an unfair advantage over them. But a compromise they asked for was simple: extend the date of the bill to Feb 15th, 2009, and they're all for it.

No problem! The date extension is useful to other groups as well who are trying to negotiate deals, and the only possible opposition of the date extension would possibly be SoundExchange- just because they want to see this settled ASAP and not to continue dragging on.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Zoe Lofgren supporting the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008

Zoe Lofgren (D - CA) on the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008. It passed in the house, but still needs to pass in the Senate, and the NAB is opposing it.

Don't forget: we still need to get it passed in the Senate!

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008 passes in the House!

Thanks to everyone who called their representatives. The Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008 has passed the house, now it's onto the Senate. We'll need to call them in the next 24 hours and ask for the support of "HR 7084, The Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008" (it's still called HR even though it's in the Senate).

Look up your Senator's phone number and call them. You can leave a voice message after hours.

All you need to say is "Please support HR 7084, The Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008, in the Senate. I support internet radio and want to see a fair royalty agreed upon."

The Senate will resume Monday morning, September 29th, and will consider this in the morning. If we leave messages this weekend, we can show that there is considerable grass roots support for it, and it will greatly lessen the impact of the NAB's opposition to it. And calling on Monday as well is a good thing to do; as there is a good chance it won't be passed first thing.

Summary & Background

H.R. 7084 contains technical amendments to the Small Webcasting Settlement Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-321) which will permit commercial and noncommercial webcasters to negotiate royalty rates and terms other than those determined by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) in its May 2007 decision. That decision was the basis for legislation introduced last year and is currently subject to a legal challenge at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has, thus far, upheld the market rates and terms set by the CRB.

The principal purpose of the legislation is to facilitate a reduction in Internet streaming rates, something H.R. 7084 will permit to be voluntarily negotiated by willing parties rather than imposed by Congress. Essentially, this bill will allow SoundExchange, the organization which collects royalties on behalf of the music industry, to reach a settlement with the Digital Media Association, the national trade organization for the online audio and video industries.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

NAB opposing Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008

According to CNET: NAB, the National Association of Broadcasters, is opposing the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008:

(CNET quoting a NAB representative) "NAB has concerns related to Congress attempting to fast-track a bill introduced less than 24 hours ago that could have serious implications for broadcasters, webcasters, and consumers of music. NAB spent more than a year trying to work out an equitable agreement on webcasting rates, only to be stonewalled by SoundExchange and the record labels. We will continue to work with policymakers on a solution that is fair to all parties."

I don't get it, you'd think this would be in AM/FM's interests as well, as it will let NAB negotiate a deal and have it codified as well. This doesn't limit deals to a single, specific organization.

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Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008 introduced

DiMA and SaveNetRadio announced that H.R. 7084: “Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008” was introduced, and clears a path for private negotiations to continue while Congress is in recess.

Basically this bill says: when the parties agree to a settlement, the CRB publishes it in the Federal Register, and it becomes an option qualified webcasters can elect, by re-wording the Small Commercial Webcasters provisions from 2002 to be applied to all webcasters, and for the period of 11 years from 1/1/2006.

So effectively, this will allow any SoundExchange settlement to be codified, and apply to all sound recordings, not just those represented by SoundExchange. I think is a good thing.

Trade organization DiMA (who represents the larger internet broadcasters like AOL and Pandora) says:

This bill does not affect the scope of performance rights or any underlying copyright law, and it does not impact broadcasters. It only clears the path for private negotiations to continue while Congress is in recess. It is scheduled to be considered today under Suspension of the Rules in the House.

I just spoke with John Simson and he confirmed that SoundExchange supports this as well.

Kirt Hanson in RAIN says ``H.R. 7084 is a bipartisan bill introduced by Congressmen Inslee, Conyers, Smith, Berman, and Manzullo and apparently supported by SoundExchange, the RIAA, NPR, and DiMA. It is scheduled to be considered today under Suspension of the Rules in the House.`` http://www.kurthanson.com

Here's the Save Net Radio release:

WASHINGTON D.C. –Today, Congress introduced legislation that will provide critical life support into the negotiations regarding the drastically increased performance royalties for Internet webcasters. H.R. 7084, the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008, authorizes SoundExchange, on behalf of copyright owners and performers, to negotiate an alternative royalty agreement before the end of the year with any Internet radio service. This legislation will benefit all webcasters, including NPR, college webcasters, small webcasters and broadcasters who put their stations on the Internet. Because Internet radio royalties operate under a government license, Congressional authority is required to allow any negotiated settlement to take effect.

“Passage of this bipartisan legislation will ensure that the progress in negotiations over the last several weeks between webcasters and SoundExchange can continue and, we hope, lead to a solution that allows Internet radio to survive and thrive,” said Jake Ward, spokesperson for the SaveNetRadio Coalition. “The SaveNetRadio coalition, and the thousands of webcasters, artists and Internet radio listeners it represents, thanks Reps. Inslee, Berman, Smith, Conyers and Manzullo for their sponsorship of this critical legislation and greatly appreciates their continued attention and leadership on this issue.”

H.R. 7084 is scheduled to be considered today under Suspension of the Rules in the House. This bill does not affect the scope of performance rights or any underlying copyright law, and it does not impact broadcasters, it only clears the path for private negotiations to continue while Congress is in recess.

BACKGROUND:

A March 2, 2007, decision by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB), a division of the Library of Congress charged with establishing performance royalty rates for “digital radio” broadcasters, increased rates for webcasters by an unjustified and unprecedented 300 to 1200 percent.

Since the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) increase royalty rates for webcasters 16 months ago, there has been an immediate and devastating effect on Internet radio services. Three of the most-listened-to services (AOL Radio, Yahoo! Radio and Pandora) have either left the business, limited listener access to their services, or announced they are likely to shut down in the near future if royalties are not significantly reduced. Just as importantly from the perspective of the artists that depend upon Internet radio, recent Arbitron data demonstrates clearly that royalty-paying webcast listening has diminished substantially since the CRB decision.

Legislation introduced last year to correct the discrepancy between Internet radio and cable and satellite radio providers by establishing an equal rate for all digital radio – cable, satellite and internet radio – at 7.5% of revenue is still pending with more than 150 Congressional cosponsors. The Internet Radio Equality Act (S. 1353/H.R. 2060) was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sam Brownback (R-KA) and in the House by Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Don Manzullo (R-IL).

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Monday, September 8, 2008

Can Payola can save Internet Radio?

Doug Perlson writing in Silicon Alley Insider thinks that Payola can save Internet Radio from the high royalties that we currently face.

From strictly a financial-gain perspective, he may be right.

But for broadcasters looking for a long-term sustainable business, and not a short term financial gain (such as getting bought out by a larger company), this approach will not have success.

First off, "Payola" is not illegal in the net-radio space. In fact, it's already happening lots of places. The big labels have equity positions in several of the largest webcasters. You don't think those labels are influencing what gets played? Of course they do.

SoundExchange (the agency that collects the royalties for internet radio) is even encouraging this behavior, suggesting that stations work with labels to play the music that labels will let them use without royalties... except those deals are always more complex than that. (Basically, they give the labels control over what gets played. "You can use this particular music for free, only if you give x number of plays to these other tracks.")

I'm happy that some of the larger guys, like Pandora, have demonstrated their opposition to this. But many others, who are proponents of "direct licensing deals" are already playing the Payola game.

Music should be chosen on its artistic merit, not because of a opportunistic financial decision.

Payola, while technically illegal, has still been happening at AM/FM radio stations (under the guise of "independent promotion"). Many FM radio stations were so reliant on "promo money" that it was a significant part of their annual operating budgets- especially in mid and smaller markets. And while this practice has come under fire and largely discontinued just recently, many variations on the game sill exist, and you're fooling yourself if you think that labels have stopped using money to influence program and music directors.

Many people (including myself) believe that this is what has caused consumers to turn away from commercial radio: programmers were playing what they were paid to play rather than choosing the best material to play. So commercial FM became the land of the safe, proven hits of the past and the crap that the labels were paying to get played.

The people who say this would work for net radio have never been on the receiving end of the music promotion industry. There are tons of crappy records that labels (big and small) would happily pay to get played on the radio. But listeners are smart, and have plenty of options to choose what they want to listen to. They'll just start "tuning out" if this happens.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Internet radio sites push for lower royalties for artists

Austin American-Statesman:

Internet radio sites push for lower royalties for artists

"Satellite and cable radio stations pay royalties at a rate of less than 15 percent - far less than Internet sites - Kennedy said. Traditional AM/FM radio stations are exempt from paying royalties.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who has sponsored one of the Internet radio bills, said the royalty fee schedule improperly imposes the highest rates on the newest forms of technology.

'We are allowing the royalty process to serve as a tax on technology and that is discrimination against innovation,' he said."

Lots of information in the full article, the above was just a brief quote.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Save Net Radio Press Release

INTERNET RADIO MAKES A COMEBACK IN THE SENATE The Grassroots Movement to Save Internet Radio from Extinction is Reinvigorated by Senate Judiciary Committee – Brownback Offers Industry Saving Legislation

Save Net Radio Press Release

WASHINGTON D.C. – Legislation introduced in the House and the Senate last year to bring parity and equality to the new radio market made a comeback today during a Senate Judiciary mark-up. The Internet Radio Equality Act (IREA), which would establish a flat rate for performance royalty fees paid by cable, satellite and Internet radio providers, was offered as an amendment to the Orphan Works Act of 2008 (S. 2913) by Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) during a scheduled mark-up of the intellectual property legislation today.

The amendment, which was later withdrawn, signals the renewed efforts of Net radio webcasters to reverse an unprecedented 2007 rate increase by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) that threatens to bankrupt the industry. Expressing his “strong support for internet radio,” Chairman Leahy welcomed future consideration of Internet radio royalties.

“It has been more than a year since the CRB raised the cost of webcasting to an untenable amount,” said Jake Ward, spokesperson for the SaveNetRadio campaign, “and all we are is a year older. Last year, more than two million people called on Congress to take action, and 150 Members in the House and Senate heard them and signed on in support of the Internet Radio Equality Act, but we still don’t have a solution. In the past year, rates have been set for net radio’s direct competition, satellite and cable radio providers, at a rate three and four times less than their proposals to Internet radio. It is disappointing and absurd that while Net radio is fighting for its survival, the industry has been put at an even greater disadvantage. This is unacceptable and hardly the good faith negotiations the House Commerce committee directed SoundExchange to participate in more than nine months ago.”

“Senator Brownback has been a staunch ally of small businesses and independent artists whose livelihoods depend on Internet radio since this fight began a year ago,” Ward continued. ”The offering of the amendment today and Senator Brownback’s leadership and dedication to equality should serve as a reminder to other Members that Internet radio and its tens of millions of supporters are not going away quietly. We should all be in this together. This continued battle is perlexing but we are committed to fighting for fairness – fairness for artists, fairness for independent labels, and fairness for webcasters. In the coming weeks and months, SaveNetRadio will be directing our formidable grassroots to support legislation that ensures artists are fairly compensated while leveling the playing field for webcasters.”

Following a March 2, 2007, decision by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB), a division of the Library of Congress charged with establishing performance royalty rates for “digital radio” broadcasters, to increase rates for webcasters by an unjustified and unprecedented 300 to 1200 percent, a national coalition of webcasters, independent artists and Net radio listeners began petitioning Congress to take action. The Internet Radio Equality Act (S. 1353/H.R. 2060), which would set the rate for all digital radio – cable, satellite and internet radio – at 7.5% of revenue, was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sam Brownback (R-KA) and in the House by Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Don Manzullo (R-IL).

In November of 2007, SoundExchange formally proposed that cable radio services pay royalties between 7.25% and 7.5% of their revenue to sound recording copyright owners and recording artists. The following month, the Copyright Royalty Board, citing market constraints and a desire not to disrupt the industry, further reduced the royalty rate for satellite radio to 6% of broadcaster revenue –increased incrementally to 8% over the next five years. Cable and satellite radio generated $2 billion in 2006 while Internet radio produced less than $150 million. Under the current CRB ruling webcasters would pay an average 30% of revenue in royalty fees – and as much as 150% in some cases.

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Radio And Internet Newsletter reports: SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE TO LOOK AT WEBCASTING ROYALTIES

SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE TO LOOK AT WEBCASTING ROYALTIES:

"At a hearing of the Senate Judiciary committee this morning, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) revived the issue of Internet radio performance royalties by proposing to add the Internet Radio Equality Act as an amendment to an unrelated copyright bill. Committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), while expressing his support for webcasters, countered by suggesting that the committee examine the issue in June in the context of broadcast radio performance royalties.

[RAIN will] have more details as they emerge. You can also check the SaveNetRadio website here: http://www.savenetradio.org."
I guess it may be time to go back to Washington DC again. Perhaps this time we can get some traction on that bill.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

CRB sets satellite radio royalty rates.

and guess what? They're lower than internet radio!

AP is reporting:

``Satellite Radio will pay a performance license rate of 6 percent of certain revenue this year for sound recordings played over its network, according to Copyright Royalty Board decision`` and ``also will pay a performance license rate of 6 percent of gross revenue subject to the fees for 2008, which will then increase by 0.5 percent annually before reaching 8 percent in 2012.``

Just to put that into context, Net Radio up until 2006 paid 10-12% of their revenue. And of course, unless we get a deal from SoundExchange that's codified by Congress, most net stations are going to pay what amounts to 300-600% of their revenues. That's right: 3-6 TIMES their revenues.

Perhaps it is time to start turning up the heat on Congress again to do something?

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Washington Post: Web Radio Seeks Resolution

Good article in Washington Post:
SoundExchange has already proposed a fee schedule that is lower than the Copyright Royalty Board's rates for commercial webcasters whose annual revenue is less than $1.25 million, and Ades said about 30 companies have accepted it. SoundExchange and the Digital Media Association also agreed in August to cap the total amount of per-channel fees that a Web service would have to pay, an issue that was of particular concern for webcasters such as Pandora that have millions of channels set up by individual users.

Still, webcasters say that even if there are favorable results to the negotiations, they are hoping for long-term legislation that will force all radio platforms -- including traditional AM/FM radio, which does not currently pay any royalties to SoundExchange -- to pay the same rates.

Read entire article

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Internet Radio Hearing this Wednesday: Call your Senator and ask them to attend!

Just found this out a bit late:

This Wednesday morning (tomorrow), the Senate Commerce Committee will meet to hold a hearing on the future of radio in the United States. Representatives from broadcast radio, music industry, and Internet radio will testify before the committee about the current state of the radio industry and how royalty fees and other issues, like competition and innovation, affect the future of the industry. This is an unprecedented opportunity for Internet radio to explain its value to Congress, and we need your help to make sure they are listening.

Call the Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your senator's office. If you don't know your Senator's name, just tell them your state, and they'l connect you.

Or look up their direct number on the senate site.

Here's what you should say:

  • I am a constituent, and an Internet radio listener calling to ask that as a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, the Senator attend Wednesday's hearing on the future of radio.
  • Internet radio has been a revolutionary force in the music industry since its creation and now empowers artist, consumers, and music lovers of every kind. The Copyright Royalty Board's unprecedented and ill informed decision to increase royalty fees for Webcasters by more than 300% has threatened to bankrupt this important industry and we need the Senator's help.
  • The real future of radio for music lovers, artists, and the music industry as a whole is online. To save this industry and allow it to prosper, there must be parity and equality between webcasters, satellite radio, and broadcast radio. Today Internet radio pays a recording royalty fee more than twice that of satellite radio, and terrestrial radio pays none at all. To fix this unfair and inexplicable inequality, please cosponsor the Internet Radio Equality Act, S. 1353, pending in the Senate today.

Details on the hearing:

Full Committee Hearing on the Future of Radio

Wednesday, October 24, 2007, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 253 of the Russell Senate Office Building

Witness List

Mr. Mac McCaughan, Musician and Cofounder, Merge Records
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514

Mr. W. Russell Withers Jr., President, Withers Broadcasting Group
Mt. Vernon, Illinois 62864

Mr. Tim Westergren, Chief Strategy Officer & Founder, Pandora
Oakland, California 94612

Mr. S. Derek Turner, Research Director, Free Press
Washington, DC 20001

Ms. Carol Pierson, President and CEO, National Federation of Community Broadcasters
Oakland, California 94612

Ms. Dana Davis Rehm, Senior Vice President for Strategy & Partnerships, National Public Radio
Washington, DC 20001

More Details

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Radio Royalty Update

Official Internet Radio Royalty Update: both sides still "in discussions". Nothing has changed there. The Internet Radio Equality Act is feeling doomed as congress is more interested in a long term copyright change.

I think what Congress is hoping is that everyone can keep "negotiating" long enough for them to pass the next set of laws. That forces net radio into an uncomfortable position- we're potentially assuming some huge royalty obligations.

I think we still need to put pressure on congress. But I think we've lost their ear.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Can Internet Radio survive under current legislation?

No, it can't legally in the US.

We still have a long way to go to get legislation passed. Congress seems to have lost interest in us, and is satisfied now that a few very small webcasters have taken the so-called "offer" from SoundExchange (that only covers big label and SX-member artists, not useful for independent broadcasters!)

Meanwhile, attention has turned to the new bill which will put a royalty on over-the-air broadcasters as well. Alas, that royalty will be "penies on the dollar", well below the 10-12% paid in the past by webcasters, and way below the rates set by the CRB last March.

Paul Gathard at Daily Tech says it well:

Becoming a pirate internet radio station is no way to run a business or to live in peace and harmony with the law. The risk is far too great for rewards that are elusive at best for even well funded statutorily licensed internet radio stations.

If you have a passion for the medium and the music, the answer is new legislation. If you have an overwhelming desire to build an internet radio empire, the answer is new legislation. If you simply want to listen to your favorite internet radio station any time you want, the answer is new legislation. There will be few options or choices for any internet radio ambitions unless the current CRB ruling is overturned and a new law crafted.
Read the whole article...

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

CNN: SoundExchange spent $50,000 lobbying

CNN:
SoundExchange spent $50,000 in the first half of 2007 to lobby against Senate and House bills that would nullify the new payment system set by a three-judge copyright panel in March, according to a disclosure form posted online Sept. 7 by the Senate's public records office.
Frankly, I'm surprised that they only spent $50k. And doesn't this money belong to the artists?

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Press Release: Webcasters Stand Firm

(Released in conjunction with SaveNetRadio and the stations listed below)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Webcasters Stand Firm

Deal With Us In Good Faith or No Deal!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007 SAN FRANCISCO, CA. – Thousands of webcasters stand firm by rejecting the most recent Copyright Royalty Rate proposal made by SoundExchange. The latest take it or leave it “offer” made by SoundExchange on behalf of the recording industry has done nothing to further negotiations with webcasters, and a mere 24 small webcasters have felt they had no choice but to give in to the record labels demands.

“The latest proposal made by SoundExchange is extremely disappointing, at a time where we need real progress, not hollow tricks.” SaveNetRadio spokesperson Jake Ward said. “While the clock continues to tick for webcasters, SoundExchange continues to play games with their good faith The resounding rejection of this offer should serve as a reminder to SoundExchange, and to Congress, that the webcasting community is intent on a lasting and fair resolution to this issue, and willing to fight for it”

We, the undersigned have made it very clear to the Sound Exchange exactly why this latest offer is unrealistic and unacceptable. Its terms are not viable for webcasters seeking to run profitable businesses. One such term is the newly added ATH (Aggregate Tuning Hour) cap which immediately makes many mid-level webcasters ineligible for the recently presented agreement. For stations with revenues far below the $1.25 million cap, but with healthy listener bases, this ATH cap forces payments at the CRB rates.

This deal is not feasible for anyone who wants to grow their business. It contains the aforementioned $1.25 million revenue cap, which limits growth and puts in place a dangerously low hard ceiling for revenue generation. The Small Business Administration revenue cap for over-the-air broadcasters to be considered a small business is $6.5 million – this would seem a fair cap, with precedent.

Also, the offer only covers copyright holders that are SoundExchange members, of which there are approximately 20,000. Between us, the undersigned webcasters played far more artists than that in the last year. Under the SoundExchange offer for artists not on that limited roster, webcasters would have to pay at the bankruptcy-level rates, which were set in the fatally flawed Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) ruling in March. Those CRB rates were condemned by webcasters, the press, and members of Congress and deemed as wildly out of line and detrimental to all parties concerned – including the RIAA.

We have asked for a reasonable, long term solution, not one that is subject to increase at the whim of the record industry every five years. 2010 is little more than 2 years away, and it would be difficult for any business owner to accurately forecast profits and build a successful business model with a huge expense variable looming in the future.

Although several of the webcasters listed below are currently involved in direct negotiations with Sound Exchange, the process remains exceedingly slow and increasingly unpromising. In the continuing absence of a genuine offer that would allow internet radio to continue to be the vital medium for new music discovery we implore our listeners and fans of internet radio to continue to urge your legislative representatives to pass the Internet Radio Equality Act (HR2060, S.1353).

For information on how you can contact your representative, please visit http://www.savenetradio.org.

Signed:

Jeff Bachmeier, .977
Val Starr, GotRadio.com, 100hitz.com
Rusty Hodge, SomaFM.com
Rick White, BigR Radio. 1faith.fm
Donnie Mowbray, 181.fm
Kurt Hanson, AccuRadio
Dave Landis, Ultimate 80’s
Bill Goldsmith, Radio Paradise
Ted Leibowitz, BagelRadio
Sal Amato, Dot1media
Brandon Casci, Loud City
Jim & Wanda Atkinson, 3WK
Ari Shopat, Digitally Imported
Mike Roe, Radio IO

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

No deal on the horizon

Some places are reporting that a deal is just about finalized with SoundExchange, but this is not correct. I think they're referring to the NPR/SoundExchange deal, which I hear is getting close to being finalized. But that doesn't do any good for all the other webcasters out there!

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Thursday, September 6, 2007

SaveNetRadio.org Press Release

For Immediate Release
Contact: Jake Ward (SaveNetRadio) 202 6833156
Thursday, September 6, 2007

Webcaster Coalition Welcomes Progress and Congress Back to Town
Negotiations to Save Internet Radio from Rate Hike Moving Slowly

WASHINGTON D.C. –In a statement released as Congress returned to Washington D.C. after the August recess, SNR spokesperson Jake Ward said that while some progress was made in August it was not enough, and should not satisfy Congress. “The recent “minimum royalty” agreement between DiMA and SoundExchange was a good start, but there has been no success reported on basic royalty rates that are agreeable and sustainable for any class of webcasters – large, small, public radio, traditional broadcasters or college radio. During the August recess SoundExchange unilaterally issued revised small webcaster licenses that it characterized as helpful but were soundly rejected by many, and the Internet radio industry is still teetering on a precipice.”

In late July, amid growing public support and an increasing number of cosponsors for the Internet Radio Equality Act, Members of both the House and Senate called on SoundExchange to engage webcasters in good faith discussions during the August recess.

“Though several Members of have called for negotiated resolutions, SoundExchange seems to be playing out the clock in order to avoid Congressional action. Now that Congress has returned to Washington we hope they will hold SoundExchange to its word and the modest progress will develop into a full-scale resolution before the end of September.”

For more information on the SaveNetRadio coalition visit www.savenetradio.org

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

SoundExchange extends (not very good) offer to small webcasters

Yesterday, SoundExchange emailed a not very good offer to small webcasters. This offer is separate from an offer being negotiated with a group of 6 small webcasters who were parties to the CRB hearings known as the Small Commercial Webcasters group and represented by David Oxenford.

There has been some news coverage about webcasters' reactions to this.

As for my reaction to parts of parts of the offer:

These attached rates only apply toward each webcaster’s first 5,000,000 aggregate tuning hours (“ATH”) of usage each month. For any usage in a single month above 5,000,000 ATH, the webcaster must pay the applicable commercial webcaster rates (currently $0.0011 per performance during 2007.) By way of example, a service would need to have an approximate average of 6,945 simultaneous listeners, each listening for thirty consecutive days, 24 hours a day, in order to exceed 5,000,000 ATH of usage.
It should be pointed out that this number is very low; to put that into context, we're capped at an AQH of under 7000; but for example WBUR, a public radio station in Boston has an AQH of over 40,000. Currently, SomaFM averages a little over this, typically around 7800 average listeners.

Now according to a discussion I had with John Simson, this only applies to listeners in the US. So that reduces our amount of listeners by 40%. But at the rate we're growing, in 2 years we'll be over that limit with our US listeners. So this agreement won't work for us.

If a webcaster’s total annual revenue exceeds $1.25 million, it is no longer eligible for these offered rates and terms. After the conclusion of a six-month “grace period,” during which time it may continue to pay under the offered rates and terms, the webcaster must calculate any subsequent liability using the applicable commercial or noncommercial webcasting rates, as defined in the Federal Register at 72 Fed. Reg. 24084 (May 1, 2007).
So if we exceed that revenue cap, our royalties would go from $150,000 a year to over $2 million or more a year. In fact, if we extrapolate our current revenue to royalty ratio, our rates would go from $150,000 to $5 million at the point we hit the $1.25 million revenue cap.

So if we can increase the size of our business to over 1.25 million dollars, we'll be forced out of business.

This isn't an offer. This is a restraint of trade.

Please note that SoundExchange is making this offer only on behalf of its copyright owner members and has no authority to make this offer on behalf of non-members of SoundExchange. For transmissions of sound recordings owned by non-members of SoundExchange, webcasters must comply with the rates and terms in the Final Determination of the CRJs, published in the Federal Register at 72 Fed. Reg. 24084 (May 1, 2007).
This is the real problem here, and why we need congress to act. SoundExchange only represents 20,000 artists, and many artists SomaFM plays are not SoundExchange members (we are playing about 8000 different artists currently). To put the 20,000 number in context: Live365 plays over 250,000 different artists.

Bottom line: this is an unworkable offer, and it is not in any webcaster's interest to accept this offer.

Here's the full text of the letter, or get a PDF of this letter and the actual SWSA Term Sheet 2006:

Dear Small Commercial Webcaster,
 
  I am writing on behalf of SoundExchange, Inc. (“SoundExchange”) and its member copyright owners to offer certain small commercial webcasters an alternative rate structure to that enacted by the Copyright Royalty Judges (CRJs) in the recent webcasting proceedings.  Through this offer, qualified webcasters have the option of utilizing the attached rates and terms for nonsubscription transmissions of SoundExchange member sound recordings under 17 U.S.C. § 112 and § 114. 
 
  At the request of members of Congress and congressional committees, SoundExchange is making the attached offer available to small commercial webcasters which do not exceed an annual revenue threshold or a monthly threshold on aggregate tuning hours.  The attached rates and terms generally track those previously available under the prior agreement negotiated pursuant to the Small Webcaster Settlement Act (SWSA), which allow qualified entities to pay royalties based on a percentage of revenue (10% or 12%) or a percentage of expenses (7%) as long as their total annual revenue (both direct and affiliated revenue) does not exceed $1.25 million.  However, there are certain additional terms:  
               
  • These rates and terms are available for eligible nonsubscription transmissions for 2006-10, thus effectively extending the rates and terms negotiated pursuant to SWSA for an additional 5 years.  
  •            
  •           These attached rates only apply toward each webcaster’s first 5,000,000 aggregate tuning hours (“ATH”) of usage each month.  For any usage in a single month above 5,000,000 ATH, the webcaster must pay the applicable commercial webcaster rates (currently $0.0011 per performance during 2007.)  By way of example, a service would need to have an approximate average of 6,945 simultaneous listeners, each listening for thirty consecutive days, 24 hours a day, in order to exceed 5,000,000 ATH of usage.  
  •            
  •           If a webcaster’s total annual revenue exceeds $1.25 million, it is no longer eligible for these offered rates and terms.  After the conclusion of a six-month “grace period,” during which time it may continue to pay under the offered rates and terms, the webcaster must calculate any subsequent liability using the applicable commercial or noncommercial webcasting rates, as defined in the Federal Register at 72 Fed. Reg. 24084 (May 1, 2007).  
  •            
  •           Webcasters must provide census reporting to SoundExchange and be willing to work with SoundExchange on implementing technology, developed at SoundExchange’s expense, to track transmissions and provide the census reporting required under the agreement.            
            As with SWSA, a condition of this offer is that all parties affirm that this agreement is non-precedential and does not reflect an agreement between willing buyers and willing sellers in the marketplace.  Rather, this agreement reflects the desires of certain members of Congress that certain small commercial webcasters receive a below-market rate and as a compromise motivated by the unique business, economic and political circumstances of small webcasters, copyright owners, and performers.  All parties agree that this agreement (including any rate structure, fees, terms, conditions, or notice and recordkeeping requirements) may not be introduced in any proceeding, including those related to the setting of rates and terms for the licensing of sound recordings.  

              Please note that SoundExchange is making this offer only on behalf of its copyright owner members and has no authority to make this offer on behalf of non-members of SoundExchange.  For transmissions of sound recordings owned by non-members of SoundExchange, webcasters must comply with the rates and terms in the Final Determination of the CRJs, published in the Federal Register at 72 Fed. Reg. 24084 (May 1, 2007).  SoundExchange is working, however, to implement an industry-wide resolution that would apply rates and terms similar to the attached for all eligible small commercial webcasters and all sound recording copyright owners.  In the event that industry-wide regulations are adopted by the CRJs (or other appropriate authority) with rates and terms substantially similar to those contained in this agreement, this agreement will cease to operate and all parties will be governed by the industry-wide regulations.  Ultimately, an industry-wide resolution will be easier for all parties to administer, so it is our hope that such a resolution can be obtained.  

              If you are interested in accepting these rates and terms offered on behalf of SoundExchange’s members, please sign the attached election form and return the signed form to SoundExchange by September 14, 2007.  

              Should you have any questions about any of the information within, please contact Kyle Funn, Licensing & Enforcement Specialist, at 202.640.5881.  
  
  Respectfully,
  
    John L. Simson
   Executive Director
  SoundExchange, Inc.

 

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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Ray of Light For Internet Radio?

Jason Thomas at Crawdaddy Magazine has a great article on the state of net radio, here's a snippet:

The original laws were crafted in a time when technology was seen as having a limitless possibility to change everything about our lives, and much of the very things that the DMCA creates rules for were in states of infancy. Given the way the saga has unfolded over the last 12 years, the only way that harmony is going to be reached is either tossing out or amending the DMCA and, in doing so, re-evaluate exactly how the changes in technology have played out in the forms of digital media. There is little chance of fixing the tangle of existing legislation and Copy Right Board rulings, especially given the fact that webcasters have evolved into quite divergent forms with distinct business models, organizations and revenue/profit streams. Treating them the same would make little sense, and would open the door to fighting amongst themselves over a single rule that applies to them all as they have different interests. That is exactly what SoundExchange is hoping for.

I encourage you to ">read the whole article.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Performance Right and Platform Parity webcast

Tuesday, 31-Jul-07, Elise and I will be attending the hearing of the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property Hearing on Ensuring Artists Fair Compensation: Updating the Performance Right and Platform Parity for the 21st Century hearings will be webcast live(RealVideo)

I'll post an archive link as soon as I get it.

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Hearing on Ensuring Artists Fair Compensation: Updating thePerformance Right and Platform Parity for the 21st Century

The Copyright Office is having a hearing tomorrow to discuss expanding the sound recording performance royalty to analog broadcasters. The good news is that this will entail a rewrite of Section 114 and there is a good chance that this rewrite would put internet radio, satellite radio and over the air radio on the same basis for royalties. Currently, Internet Radio pays the highest royalty rates of any medium.

Tuesday 07/31/2007 - 10:00 AM; 2141 Rayburn House Office Building
Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property
Hearing on Ensuring Artists Fair Compensation: Updating the Performance Right and Platform Parity for the 21st Century

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Tell your congressman there is no settlement in process.

I've learned that people calling Majority Leader Hoyer's (D-MD) office are being told when they mentioned HR.2060 that there is a settlement going on, and implying HR.2060 is no longer necessary.

This is completely incorrect! As expected, the RIAA and SoundExchange are using the guise of a settlement to derail the passage of the Internet Radio Equality Act.

We need to let Hoyer's office know there is no settlement going on. The RIAA and SoundExchange have not proposed a settlement, and they haven't even acknowledged SomaFM settlement offer, and they haven't acknowledged the NAB's settlement offer, and DiMA (who represents larger webcasters and Pandora and Live365) isn't even close to settling with them; as the heads of DiMA and SoundExchange (which has a board of directors majority controlled by the RIAA or RIAA member labels) are publicly calling each other liars in the press right now. Not much of a settlement in the works.

One other point: even if there is a settlement, it's only good through 2009 and then the CRB process starts over again. HR2060 fixes this broken process.

SoundExchange: if there is a settlement being offered, make it public. And don't make it a settlement offer you know webcasters can't accept.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

IREA Update

Here's links to the updated co-sponsor list: S.1353 in the Senateand HR.2060 in the House. We currently stand at 5 Senate co-sponsors and 139 house co-sponsors. We need 51 and 218 co-sponsors respectively.

Thanks to Sally for reporting in on her calls to the Judiciary Committee this morning:

Durbin (no position) Feinstein (no position)
Biden (no position prior to vote)
Kennedy (staff still discussing this)
Feinfold (no position)
Leahy (no position)
Brownback (co-sponsor, they said he had just had a briefing on this)

You should continue to call your representatives! If they are already sponsoring the IREA, thank them for it and ask them to do what they can do to get the bill out of committee and ready for a vote. If they're not supporting it, reiterate your desire to have them support it.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Congressman Ed Markey jumps to webcasters defense!

Congressman Ed Markey jumps to webcasters defense, From Congressional Quarterly:
Markey brought webcasters and representatives of the music industry together in last-ditch talks late last week. Some progress was made in that closed-door meeting and, for now, the old fees are still in place. Negotiations are still ongoing.
"Markey decided to host the Web radio negotiations because “he does have jurisdiction over the Internet, and he has a longstanding interest in the issue."
As a result of the meeting, SoundExchange, the nonprofit that collects royalty payments and distributes them to recording artists, has agreed to keep the old royalty rate in place as long as good-faith negotiations continue.
Christine Hanson, Inslee’s spokeswoman, said he prefers negotiating to legislating. “Simply because of the time involved, it just would be a lot faster,” Hanson said. “But for Jay, the number one thing is reaching an agreeable solution to both sides, where artists feel like they’re being compensated fairly and webcasters can have a sustainable economic model.”
Read entire story...

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Are the CRB rates going to be enforced on July 15th?

John Simson on (APM's) Marketplace just now said that he expects webcasters to be in compliance with the rates that take effect on Monday. This seems counter to what has been reported by others.

It's available as a podcast at Marketplace.org, it's about 10 minutes (or 1/3 of the way) into the July 13th episode.

The critical piece:

Tim Westergren at Pandora asks John Simson, "Are these rates going to be enforced on Sunday?"

To which Mr. Simspon replies, "There is a ongoing business discussion going on between us and the representatives of these companies, but while that discussion going on, we expect them to comply with the law as it is on July 15th and July 16th."

Eliot Van Buskirk at Wired has this to say in his latest post:

Here's the deal, according to SoundExchange. Payments under the new rates are legally due on Monday, but no lawsuits are going to be meted out on that day for webcasters who do not pay, as negotiations continue. Fees that are not negotiated away will still be due retroactively -- plus interest.
We have a truce right now with the RIAA and SoundExchange, but the "Peace Accord" is still to be worked out. We still might get a bomb dropped on us.

Please keep calling your reps. And if you haven't supported SomaFM lately, we could user your financial support right now.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Pandora Exec: SoundExchange Will Not Enforce New Royalty Rates on Sunday

Wired's Eliot Van Buskirk is reporting that SoundExchange has promised that there won't be any enforcement of royalty collection on Sunday (or Monday for that matter):
The SoundExchange executive promised -- in front of Congress -- that SoundExchange will not enforce the new royalty rates. Webcasters will stay online, as new rates are hammered out.
This was to be expected. At worse case, SoundExchange would start sending out notices that stations are not in compliance, and that they are subject to the 1.5% late fee. It's a process that doesn't happen overnight. But still, this implies that they are willing to continue negotiations and that's a good thing:
Going forward without the royalties being collected, SoundExchange and webcasters will negotiate a new royalty rate with Congress looking over their shoulder -- "and last but not least, the public looking over Congress's shoulder." Alternatively, Congress now has time to consider the Internet Radio Equality Act, which would set webcaster royalties at 7.5 percent of revenue and allow them to continue operating pretty much as they have been.
Read the whole article here.

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Online Radio: It was nice while it lasted

Eliot Van Buskirk at Wired writes:
Congress's attempt today to broker a deal between webcasters and record labels will amount to nothing, according to a SoundExchange representative, because Wednesday's decision by a federal court of appeals made the new online radio royalty rates "etched in stone."
Overall, the person I talked to seemed certain that the rates are going into effect -- regardless of what's going on in Washington today.
The RIAA has a very powerful lobby. They almost always get their way when it comes to Washington DC.

As it stands now, the only fiscally prudent path now for webcasters is direct licensing, which reduces sound recording performance royalty payments legally by cutting out the artist's 50% share of the royalties. Labels can offer broadcasters discounted, direct-license deals at up to a 50% discount over crb rates and still make the same amount of money. Or by offering just a 40% discount, webcasters would pay the same as they've paid in the past, and RIAA labels would earn a 10% premium by bypassing the revenue share with artists. It's just a simple money-grab from the artists by the big labels.

But the other problem with direct licensing is that it is almost impossible to do with all the different artists and labels we play on SomaFM. 10% of the music we play is rare, out-of-print tracks. There isn't even a label to contact to get permission to play it from anymore.

Note to the RIAA: smooth move, forcing a legal music service out of business due to your greed, and it will server you right when those people all turn to the illegal file sharing networks to get the music they want.

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Notes from the Hill

Misc notes from DC on the status of the IREA and any settlements:

Today, at 4pm Eastern, Rep. Ed Markey has called for a roundtable about the web radio royalty issue.

The IREA has 128 co-sponsors now, and 5 in the senate. Finally starting to see some progress in the senate.

I've heard that there are lots of negotiations going on right now with the RIAA. Technically, they're negotiating with SoundExchange, but all the negotiators have RIAA business cards. SoundExchange is effectively the RIAA's puppet, since their board is controlled by RIAA and AFM (Musicians Union, who works closely with the RIAA).

There are separate negotiations with NAB, NPR, IBS and CBI (college broadcasters). Rumor is that nothing came out of NPR's meeting. The Small Commercial Webstasters are also talking to SX and are represented by David Oxenford. (I had previously reported erroneously that David Oxenford was not at the negotiations.)

DiMA, representing SaveNetRadio as well as AOL, Yahoo, Real, Live365 and others, is reported to not getting anywhere with the RIAA. Apparently the RIAA is refusing to compromise (gee, imagine that).

It is all about control, control via money. RIAA wants more control over what NPR stations like KCRW are playing, as more and more NPR stations in major metro areas are hosting influential music programs. And of course they want more control over the bigger internet stations. The RIAA doesn't like the fact that their (often inferior) product isn't being promoted as heavily as independent (and superior) music on these channels.

We basically have one more day to keep the rates from going into effect. so please call your senators and congressmen now and ask them to support the IREA, the internet radio equality act.

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AN URGENT MESSAGE FROM THE SAVE NET RADIO COALITION

Time and options are running out for Internet Radio. Late Wednesday afternoon, the court DENIED the emergency stay sought on behalf of webcasters, millions of listeners and the artists and music they support.

UNLESS CONGRESS ACTS BY JULY 15th, the new ruinous royalty rates will be going into effect on Sunday, threatening the future of all internet radio.

We are appealing to the millions of Internet radio listeners out there, the webcasters they support and the artists and labels we treasure to rise up and make your voices heard again before this vibrant medium is silenced. Even if you have already called, we need you to call again.

The situation is grave, but that makes the message all the simpler and more serious.

PLEASE CALL YOUR SENATORS AND REPRESENTATIVES RIGHT AWAY and urge them to support the Internet Equality Act. Click here to find the phone numbers of your Senators and Representative.

If they've already co-sponsored, thank them and tell them to fight to bring the bill to the floor for an immediate vote. If the line is busy, please call back. Call until you know your voice has been heard.

Your voices are what have gotten us this far - Congress has listened. Now, they are our only hope.

We are outmatched by lobbying power and money of the RIAA but we are NOT outmatched by facts and passion and the power of our voices.

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U.S. Court of Appeals denies webcasters' "Motion to Stay"

RAIN is reporting the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has denied webcasters' "Motion to Stay" the new webcast royalty rates. This means that the new rates go into effect on July 15th, 2007 (which is a Sunday, so it will actually be that following Monday).

Our only hope now is that we can get a vote on HR.2060 before Friday. That basically means today, Thursday, July 12th, 2007.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Naked Corporate Greed

Flint Journal quoting John Simson:
"I don't see any other way to characterize this as anything other than naked corporate greed," said John Simson, executive director of SoundExchange.
When I first read this, I assumed he was talking about the RIAA and the Big 4 record labels they represent. Actually, he was talking about internet broadcasters!

The complete quote, from an RIAA press released issued by SoundExchange:

"This legislation is a money grab by big corporations like Clear Channel and AOL at the expense of artists and labels," SoundExchange Executive Director John Simson said in a press release issued last month. I don't see any other way to characterize this as anything other than naked corporate greed. It's just not fair to artists."
This is where the RIAA is trying to mislead the public into thinking that only a few big webcasters are going to be affected by the new royalties. In reality, the big corporations who are going to be affected most are AOL and Yahoo. But they'll end up just cutting direct licensing deals with the Big 4 and the only difference will be that they play less independent artists.

Other "large webcasters" who aren't so large and will be adversely affected are Live365 and Pandora, both who qualify as small businesses under US SBA guidelines.

But he never talks about who is really going to get screwed: the small independents like SomaFM.

Thanks John. When I hear you talking about naked corporate greed, I know who you're really talking about.

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Representative Jay Inslee addresses Congress

Congressman Jay Inslee (WA-01), original cosponsor of the Internet Radio Equality Act, spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in support of his bill. The following is the complete text of Congressman Inslee’s statement:

Mr. Speaker, I come to the floor of the House this evening to discuss the potential loss of Internet radio by Americans, a tremendous service that, because of Internet software and musical geniuses, 70 million Americans now enjoy the ability to listen to music by Web broadcasters over the Internet.

It is a tremendous service. It is as ingrained in a lot of Americans' daily lives as a cup of coffee and the morning newspaper.

Unfortunately, I have to inform the House that that service may be gone in a matter of a few weeks if we don't reach a resolution of a, frankly, wrong decision decided by the Copyright Royalty Board. What I am disturbed to report to my colleagues is that some time ago, March 2, 2007, we had a decision by a Federal agency, the ramifications of which would be to shut down the ability of Americans, on a realistic basis, to continue to enjoy Internet-based radio.

The reason this happened is that this board was given the authority to set the royalty that should be paid by Webcasters who stream out this great music, by the way, tremendously diverse music. One of the great things Americans love about Internet radio is you have such eclectic, different types of music, not just top 40. You know, I haven't progressed past the Beach Boys in the 1960s, but there are a lot of kinds of other music. Internet radio has been tremendous by allowing people to enjoy thousands of different genres and types of music.

But now this Copyright Royalty Board has issued a decision which will explode the royalty that these Webcasters are forced to pay to those who generated the music, to the extent that it will make it totally economically impossible for these businesses and these Webcasters to continue to stream music to the 70 million Americans who now enjoy it.

We need to fix this problem. We need to fix it urgently, because the decision will, this guillotine will come down on July 15 if either Congress doesn't act or an agreement is not reached between the parties to adjust this copyright fee that will have to be paid by the Webcasters.

So we need to fix this problem, and, in doing so, we need to do it in a way that is fair to the musicians and artists who create the music that 70 million Americans enjoy over the Internet. These artists work hard in producing this music. They share their genius. It's an artistic gift they have, and they share it with Americans. They need to be compensated fairly to allow them to maintain their business model as well.

Unfortunately, this was a wildly disproportionate decision by this board that is grossly unfair to the distributors of music and simply will allow them not to continue in business. And to give folks a feeling of how distorted this decision will be, I would like to refer to this graph which shows Internet radio per-song royalty rates under preexisting law starting in 2005, that started at $.00008 dollars in 2005, and by 2010, we will have foisted on us 149 percent increase in these royalty rates.

I am not sure any business model can tolerate a three-fold increase just in the per-song royalty rates that these folks are having to undergo. Unfortunately, this royalty rate means about a 300 percent increase for big Webcasters. But because of the particular rules here, it's a 1,200 percent increase for small Webcasters, so the small Webcasters, which are the vast majority of Webcasters will be hit potentially by 1,200 percent increases.

Now, this board, this Copyright Royalty Board has refused to reconsider their decision. What it means in the real world is the Internet going silent. Many of the stations a few days ago went silent to demonstrate and to protest its decision. I know Americans are disturbed by this, and they are now talking to my colleagues. I know thousands of them have communicated with my colleagues as a result of this, so we need to fix this problem.

I know in my district, I am from an area just north of Seattle, First District in the State of Washington, we have a Webcaster called Big R Radio. They stream to over 15,000 listeners who enjoy their product. But because of this decision, their rates are going to go up to a level, and you have got to understand how bad this is, the rates they would have to pay just for their royalties, not for their overhead, their rent, their salaries, the royalties they would have to pay for this exceed by 150 percent the revenues that this business is getting in.

Well, obviously, that's untenable, and this company will have to either go offshore or simply shut down if some change is not made. That is bad for Big R Radio, the company, and it's bad for the 15,000 people that enjoy their music right now. We need to fix this problem.

So the first damage that was done is this per-song radio royalty, but there was another, perhaps even more odious thing that this board did, the preexisting rule required a $500 charge, or, excuse me, a per-station minimum fee. This new ruling required a $500 charge for each streaming station that they offered. Webcasters, of course, stream under certain channels. But under this decision, there was no limit on the amount total in this per streaming channel that would be placed. Many, if not most Webcasters, have multiple channels.

So, if you look at what it will cost, just three of these Webcasters, Pandora, RealNetworks and Yahoo, because they are getting socked with this $500 per channel, and they broadcast literally thousands of channels with no limit, just those three Webcasters would have to pay $1.15 billion, with a B. These rates will dwarf the radio- related revenues by substantially more than $1 billion.

In other words, it will charge these businesses more than $1 billion more than the revenues they generate from this business. That's absurd. It's ridiculous. It has no relationship to economic reality, and it is a government glitch, a foul-up of the highest order that needs to get repaired.

This would result in 64 times more the total royalties collected by the group called SoundExchange that collects these royalties in 2006, an increase of more than, this is a pretty amazing number to me, 10 million percent over the minimum fee of $2,500 per licensee. Clearly, this is beyond the realm of economic reality.

Finally, this royalty board, the third thing that they did, they eliminated the percentage of revenue fees that many small Webcasters use to determine their performance royalty, which would be severely damaging to small Webcasters. So, to put this in perspective, in a global sense, I want to refer to what this will mean in total royalties.

If you look at this chart, you show total royalties in 2004 of $10 million. The estimated fee under the old royalty rule in 2006 would be $18 million. But under this decision, this flawed decision, it will actually be $1.150 million. So if you want to see the difference graphically of what the old royalty would be in 2006, this bubble would go to this supernova, I would call it, in 2006. This is untenable. It needs to be fixed.

Now, in order to fix this, Representative Manzullo and myself have introduced the Internet Radio Equality Act, it's H.R. 2060, and this bill would fix this problem by doing something that appears eminently fair to me, which would simply have the same rate to be paid by Internet-based Webcasters as broadcasters now pay over satellite radio, over cable radio and over juke boxes.

What we are simply saying is that we ought to have equality, fairness, that is why we named it the Radio Equality Act, by having parity, the same level, which is 7.5 percent of revenue, a transition rate, in 2010. This is something that is fair, equal, and economically realistic to allow 70 million Americans to continue to enjoy their radio over the Internet. And now, 128 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives have cosponsored this bill just in a matter of a month or two; and the reason they have done so is I think they have heard from their constituents who want to keep their service going and realize how ridiculously out of whack this particular decision was.

Now, I know it may surprise some Americans to know that government agencies can make mistakes, but certainly one was made here and we need to fix it, and we need to fix it quickly. On July 15, this decision will go into effect. I encourage my colleagues to look at this bill, H.R. 2060, the Internet Radio Internet Equality Act, and cosponsor it to add their voices to the choir to demand action by the legislature to fix this bureaucratic foul- up.

Obviously, this is supported by a large number of people, not just broadcasters. National Public Radio certainly has an interest in this. I know that many of my constituents enjoy it, and it is in great jeopardy tonight if we don't act. I know one station has already gone off the air because of this bureaucratic snafu. The NPR affiliate Rock Island Illinois- based WVIK served hundreds of thousands of citizens. They have switched off their Web stream because this is an economically untenable situation for them if it is not fixed. So what their constituents and their customers are now hearing over the Internet is silence. Silence may be better than some of the music my kids have listened to over the years, but it is not better than the thousands of stations and access that people have over the Internet. We want to keep that available for Americans.

I also want to say that why I think this is so important is diversity. One of the best things about the Internet is it gives you what you want, not what the broadcaster wants you to listen to. And, frankly, because of the consolidation of the industry and the radio over- the-air industry, we are hearing a lot more of the same thing over and over and over again. And some of it is great music. We are still stuck in the 1960s, many of us, and we enjoy it, but diversity and having access to Appalachian bluegrass or music from the subcontinent of India; I heard of a genre, it was basically heavy metal, hip-hop, country at the same time, and that is quite a genre. But this provides diversity for people, and they ought to have their multiple tastes enjoyed and that is really in jeopardy tonight.

Now, the other thing I want to say is that this decision will go into effect July 15, and these stations will be in great economic jeopardy beginning just in a week or so; and, unfortunately, some of them as of July 15 might shut off their streaming. Others are going to start to consider what to do. Some may consider going offshore, which is not a healthy situation for us for a variety of reasons.

But I want to assure the parties who might be involved in discussions in this that after July 15 it will not be the end of this discussion. If Congress is unable to act before July 15 and if the parties don't reach some resolution of this, July 15 will not be the end of this effort. It will not be the beginning of the end of this effort; it might be the end of the beginning of this effort, because as these stations start to shut down, Congress will be deluged more than they have already been deluged with voices of protestation exercising their right to petition their government for redress of grievances, and one of the biggest grievances people are going to have is they can't hear their radios over the Internet anymore. The 128 cosponsors we have today even before the sword of Damocles has fallen on the music is going to grow, and we are going to be back here to continue to grow this until we get relief.

So I am hopeful that the parties are talking to one another to try to reach an economically viable and fair resolution of this so that artists, performers, songwriters can continue to have a meaningful economic model, so they can continue to do their work and they will be compensated for it; that Web casters can have an economic model to allow them to stream it over the Web, and 70 million Americans can continue to enjoy the pursuit of happiness over the Internet listening to this great music. If that does not happen by July 15, we are going to be back here until it gets resolved and this chorus, this drumbeat will continue. We do not intend to let, in the words of Don McLean's song, not allow the music to die. It is, too, a part of the American culture, and I will encourage my colleagues to help out by cosponsoring this bill.

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Monday, July 9, 2007

RIAA blocking IREA, holding up any settlements

I've heard "off the record" now from several sources that the RIAA has been the party behind a large mis-information push about the Internet Radio Equality Act.

One example is claiming that the biggest internet radio services are giant corporations. With the exception of Yahoo and AOL, most of the largest internet broadcasters - in terms of listeners - are all independent operations.

As Bill Goldsmith at Radio Paradise says:

SoundExchange has been challenged many times, by numerous people (including myself) to give ONE example of a webcaster currently online in the U.S. who could operate successfully under the CRB rate structure. They have never done so, because there are no stations that meet that criteria.
Instead, the RIAA brings up misleading statements of how most webcasters are all billion dollar corporations who could easily afford these rates, yet won't state facts. (I've asked members of the SoundExchange board as well as their news department to name the 20 major webcasters and gotten no response.) WHY? Because they can't name them because they don't have the facts to back it up.

Additionally, the RIAA is holding up settlements that could be enacted (and congressionally codified). Independent artist representatives on SoundExchange's board support a settlement that's favorable to independent internet broadcasters, but since the majority of the SoundExchange board is controlled by the RIAA and the musician's union (which represents session musicians performing on RIAA label recordings), nothing is happening.

Why?

It should be obvious. The RIAA wants to force all webcasters to make direct deals with the Big 4 labels, because that's the way the Big 4 labels get control back. They want to control what you hear over the air.

Don't let this happen.

Get on the phone right now and call SomaFM's home town representative, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office at (415) 556-4862 and ask Speaker Pelosi to demand that the RIAA come to a fair settlement with small webcasters. Remind her that otherwise, the RIAA will end up forcing small webcasters out of business through impossibly high royalty rates. Also remind her that the majority of the "Big 4" labels represented by the RIAA are foreign-owned, and will be putting American companies out of business.

Call her office now. You can leave messages after hours.

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Sunday, July 8, 2007

Why do Nashville Songwriters oppose the IREA?

From nashvillesongwriters.com: Songwriters oppose the “Internet Radio Equality Act,” H.R. 2060, S 1353:
This legislation contains provisions that would disallow performance royalties to be negotiated in the free market. Past history shows that other emerging technologies, including cable television and video rentals, made the same argument—that rates should be lower so they could compete. The industries became huge and the result was business models that are very unfair to the creators of music. Also, large corporations such as Clear Channel and Microsoft could end up being the biggest windfall financial beneficiaries.
A few things:

1. The IREA does not affect songwriter royalties.

2. The IREA does not "disallow performance royalties to be negotiated in the free market". Sound-recording performance royalties can still be negotiated independently. Ironically, this is NOT the case with the composition performance royalties (paid through ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) which covers the songwriters.

3. The rate cut that "large corporations" get isn't the most important part of this legislation. In fact, I'm sure those numbers were put there as a point of negotiation. Bills always get changed before they're passed. Why throw out the baby with the bath water? The important part of the IREA is the changes to the Copyright Act to treat satellite radio and internet radio on the same basis (that of a fair market value vs. a "willing buyer, willing seller" value which only internet radio is subject to now.)

I think someone doesn't get it over there. Internet radio is paying royalties to the composers now. The IREA doesn't affect that. Higher royalties on the sound recording performance will reduce the number of internet radio stations, which will in turn mean less diversity in music programming.

But then they also say:

America has LOST TWO-THIRDS of its PROFESSIONAL SONGWRITERS over the past decade due to illegal downloading, piracy, radio deregulation and corporate mergers. Radio Deregulation has resulted in dramatically fewer spots on radio playlists. A few companies program the majority of country music reporting stations.

So they're complaining about the lack of diversity in music radio, yet they're supporting a bill that will kill off much of that diversity. Hopefully they'll realize this soon.

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Monday, July 2, 2007

San Francsico Save Net Radio benefit very successful

There was a benefit event for SaveNetRadio tonight in San Francisco, presented by SomaFM, BAGeL Radio, Sonic Living, The Owl Magazine, Pandora, Reap and Sow and Bottom of the Hill.

Almost 300 people showed up and we raised $2000 though donations at the door, a bake sale, chili cookoff, a silent auction and raffle.

Special thanks to the artists who performed: Ted of The Heavenly States, Matt of The Herms, HIJK, Miyako Ueki of Peloton, and thanks to Elise Nordling for being our MC for the evening and Corey Denis for "herding cats" and making the event happen.

Raffle prizes care of SonicLiving, Griffin Technology, Logitech/Slimdevices, Peter Ellenby (Exclusive photos/art of the Shins & Death Cab for Cutie, singed originals), Show Posters by Jason Munn, The Owl Magazine, Willotoons, IODA, SomaFM and Pandora.

I hope I'm not forgetting anyone. I'll try to get some pictures up soon.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Future of Music Coalition

FMC, in their recent newsletter (note: not in their archive yet but will be soon), has reiterated four key points about the Internet Radio royalty situation:

(Update: I should not that I'm merely presenting this as information, and I'm not endorsing everything here. I think it is a good starting point for discussion, which is starting to take place in the comments. Make sure you read the comments to this post!)

1. Internet radio is an incredibly valuable music platform for musicians, fans and labels

FMC supports the continued growth of internet radio. It has the unparalleled ability to develop loyal, worldwide audiences for niche musical genres -- from 60s rock to contemporary classical to southern blues. Small and noncommercial webcasters in particular have proven to be a valuable promoter of both independent music and genres that are routinely ignored by commercial broadcasters.

2. Performers and labels should be paid.

We have and always will support the digital performance royalty As webcasting continues to grow, and as consumers increasingly trend towards paying for /access/ to music delivered to them via subscription services, satellite radio, etc, the digital performance royalty becomes an even more important revenue stream for artists.

3. Rates proportionate to the size of the webcasters.*

We also believe that the "one size fits all" approach that was part of the March 2007 rate setting decision would be harmful to the small and non-commercial webcasters. There's a vast difference between the staffing and revenue generated by a volunteer-run internet radio station and an AOL or Clear Channel. These differences in resources and revenue - not to mention motivation for running a station - makes a tiered system the most sensible solution.

4. Streamline the reporting process.

FMC continues to believe that it's important to develop a reporting process that ensures that even the smallest webcaster can file timely and accurate playlists with SoundExchange. For years we have urged the development of an authentication database, managed by a neutral third party, through which copyright ownership and performer information would be verified. Such a database would reduce filling time and errors on playlists, thus making sure more money flows directly to artists.

To summarize, FMC believes that large commercial webcasters should pay rates comparable to their size and revenue, and we call on the other parties to adopt reasonable rates and reporting requirements for clearly-defined categories of small, noncommercial and hobbyist webcasters that will ensure the future development of this medium.

In the end, whether through legislation, court action or negotiation, FMC hopes that the webcasters and SoundExchange can work together to strike a balance that recognizes the value of webcasting to creators and listeners, but also properly compensates performers and labels for uses of their work.

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Congressional Hearing on Internet Radio Equality Act

Video coverage of the House hearings on the Internet Radio Equality Act.

Part 1

Part 2

part 3

part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7 - Mr. Lee from the American Federation of Musicians

Part 8 - Cincinnati Public Radio, Inc CEO & General Manager

Part 9 - Are webcasters trying to make a marketplace solution?

Part 10

Part 11 - The Lemonade analogy

Part 12 - Tom Lee, SoundExchange and President of AFM

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Overloading SaveNetRadio's servers

From this evening's Tech Daily (a DC-based tech policy digital news mag):
According to a SaveNetRadio spokesman, Web traffic reported by Capitol Advantage's Capwiz program by late morning was "far more" than the back-end service provider had ever experienced in a single day. The firm reportedly was "diverting all the resources they have to handle this traffic," the official said. Capwiz is considered one of the most robust Web-based advocacy services in Washington and works with about 1,500 organizations. "It's definitely the highest traffic we've seen in a long time for any sort of single issue," said Mark West of Capitol Advantage.

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Yahoo's Ian Rogers speaks out

Yahoo's Ian Rogers speaks out about the CRB royalty issues:
The CRB made a mistake, handed Sound Exchange a loaded gun, and gave them the option to shoot Internet radio dead. How the CRB came from the testimony presented to this outcome is a complete mystery to everyone involved. I’m guessing Sound Exchange is nearly as puzzled as we are at this point.
He also talks about how it affects big guys like Yahoo, and offers a bunch of insight into the whole CRB rate setting process, and offers some insight like:
I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting with our representatives in Congress and understanding their position. Congress doesn’t like to set rates, and I think we’d all agree that we’d prefer they didn’t micro-muck with the economy at this level. Instead, they set up a process and a standard, we all went through the process, and they’d like to think the outcome served the needs of the people. Our continued protest just sounds like “wah! the rates are too high! wah!”, which they’re sick of hearing and I don’t blame them. So we’ve been working hard to show them that the conversation here isn’t just “hey, we aren’t making as much money as we used to” but really “um, we are losing a lot of money on Internet radio, and we’re going to have to change our offering in such a way that it’s going to lose a lot of its great diversity of programming at the very least or that it’ll go away entirely at the very worst.” But it’s a tough slog and has taken a lot of convincing.
It's nice to see someone in Ian's position willing to honestly discuss this issue.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Congressional feedback on the Internet Radio Equality Act

Jason Stoddard over at Live365 sends out some feedback from congress about the Internet Radio Equality Act:

Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA), original sponsor of H.R. 2060

"The good news is that momentum is growing in Washington, D.C. Since its introduction in April, well over 100 members of Congress have recognized the important service webcasters provide by cosponsoring the Internet Radio Equality Act. With your continued help, that number and congressional support will keep growing as we approach July 15."
Congressman Donald Manzullo (R-IL), original sponsor of H.R. 2060
"We have had an amazing response to the Internet Radio Equality Act here in Washington, DC. Please urge your listeners to contact their Members of Congress so we can continue to build support and keep the music playing."
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), original sponsor of S. 1353
"Webcasters are valued members of the Internet community, and I will do all that I can to ensure that these royalty hikes don't go into effect. This effort is part of a broader issue that I am fighting for and that is the importance of protecting e-commerce from unfair discrimination. In order for this effort to succeed, we must all continue to work together to preserve Internet radio."
Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), original sponsor of S. 1353
"The Internet Radio Equality Act (S. 1353), which I recently introduced with my colleague Senator Ron Wyden, is fundamental to the survival of the new and innovative technology of webcasting. The recent decision of the Copyright Royalty Board, which goes into effect on July 15th, will decimate an entire industry. Millions of Americans listen to Internet radio regularly, and artists whose music would not receive airplay on commercial terrestrial radio are beginning to receive royalty checks for the first time. Despite what the critics would have you believe, Internet radio benefits artists and I applaud the innovators who have made this technology possible. Senator Wyden and I recently sent a letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy requesting that the Committee quickly move to consider our bill and correct the section of the Copyright Act that allowed for this disastrous decision."

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