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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Friday, August 21, 2009

Yahoo Launch wins appeal ruling over license fees

Newsday: Online radio service wins ruling over license fees:

"In short, to the degree that LAUNCHcast's playlists are uniquely created for each user, that feature does not ensure predictability,' the appeals court said. 'Indeed, the unique nature of the playlist helps Launch ensure that it does not provide a service so specially created for the user that the user ceases to purchase music."
This bodes well for Pandora as well, rumors were circulating saying that the RIAA was going to go after Pandora claiming it was an interactive service as well.

Interactive services, or "Music on Demand" services, are not covered by the DMCA/CRB compulsory license, and have to be individually negotiated with the copyright owners. The original suit dates back to 2001 and originally was settled in Yahoo Launch's favor.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

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

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

Doesn't seem fair does it?

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

Here's the relevant text from the bill:

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rusty speaking at SXSW on DMCA issues

I'm speaking at SXSWi on "Rewriting the DMCA: How to Improve Section 114":

``This panel will discuss the ugly bits of the Section 114 compulsory license for digital/internet music usage, and what parts are in it for historic reasons that don't apply in todays world; as well as changes that both users of the licenses (webcasters) and content providers (artists, labels) would agree to.``

Tuesday, March 17th; 11:30 am - 12:30 pm Room Hilton E

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Other deals on the horizon?

While the NAB has a deal in place, others, including small commercial webcasters, religions and non-commercials, Pandora and possibly Real Networks (Rhapsody) also failed to come to a deal in time by the deadline of Feb 15th. DiMA, part of the Save Net Radio coalition and the organization representing clients like AOL, Yahoo and other large webcasters, has not announced a deal either.

There was some talk that because the 15th was a Sunday and the 16th was a holiday, that the real deadline is the 17th so there might still be a deal made.

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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

Does the New Administration change anything for radio royalties?

It seems that the RIAA, Recording Academy and MusicFirst think the new administration will be more on their side than the old administration:

Neil Portnow, CEO of the Recording Academy said last night at the Grammys:

“When it comes to protecting a musician's intellectual property and the right to earn a living, The Academy says, "Yes, we can!" And with a new Congress, we will champion the passage of pending legislation to ensure, that just like in every developed country in the world, all music creators are compensated for their performances when played on traditional radio.”

Historical datapoint: he DMCA was passed under the Clinton administration, and the DMCA is what has placed huge royalties on internet radio. The Performance Rights Act of 2009 will add those same royalties on over-the-air broadcasters that internet broadcasters now pay. While on one hand, I think it's great that there is equality for over-the-air (often referred to as terrestrial) broadcasters, but I'm concerned that rather than one fair, small royalty placed on everyone will actually end up being one really large royalty levied on all broadcasters, terrestrial and internet.

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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, February 4, 2009

Conyers, Issa Re-introduce Bipartisan Performance Rights Legislation

This bill as it stands probably doesn't do much for webcasters, other than propose to take away the exemption for terrestrial broadcasters. I'm disappointed that it doesn't say that all forms of broadcasting will pay the same price, be it terrestrial or digital. Media Week has more on the story, including the response from the NAB, including this quote from NAB's letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
Three of the four largest record label conglomerates -- Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and EMI -- are internationally-based" and "although the big record labels have seen their revenues decline over the last decade, local radio broadcasters are not the reason the recording industry is losing money, and it should not be the industry to fix it.
 

Here's the text of the press release:  

WASHINGTON. D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), and Darrell Issa (R-CA), introduced The Performance Rights Act, a bipartisan measure that takes a first step at ensuring that all radio platforms are treated in a similar manner and that those who perform music are paid for their work.   

The legislation would amend an inequity in America's copyright law that exempts over-the-air broadcasters from paying those who perform the music that we listen to on AM and FM radio.  Webcasters, satellite radio providers and cable companies are presently required to pay for music they broadcast.   

"Beyond the fairness that this bill provides for performers, we have an opportunity to show the rest of the world that the United States practices what it preaches in protecting intellectual property," said Issa. "For the past 70 years Congress has ignored the constitutional mandate that we protect copyrights by completely exempting broadcasters from paying performers, while the vast majority of countries have no such exemption.  Our ignorance of intellectual property rights on this issue is a worldwide embarrassment and it must end now."   

"All those in the creative chain of musical production - the artists, musicians, and others who enrich us culturally - deserve to be justly compensated for their work," said Conyers.  "We have introduced the Performance Rights Act to ensure fairness so that any service that plays music pays those who create and own the recordings - just as satellite, cable and internet radio stations currently do. Working with the Senate, I hope that Congress may act quickly to pass this important legislation to level the playing field between different technologies and ensure rightful compensation to performers."  

  The Performance Rights Act is cosponsored by Reps. Issa, Berman, Waxman, Blackburn, Hodes, Wasserman Schultz, Weiner, Cohen, Nadler, Wexler, Peterson (MN), Johnson (GA), Schiff, Sherman, Shadegg, Jackson Lee, L. Sanchez, and Harman. Companion legislation was introduced Wednesday in the Senate by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and former Chairman Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).   

"In introducing the Performance Rights Act, we are sensitive to the needs of broadcast radio stations," said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  "I want to ensure that the performing artist, the one whose sound recordings drive the success of broadcast radio, is compensated fairly.  Our legislation, appropriately, permits noncommercial stations to take advantage of the statutory copyright license subject only to a nominal annual payment to the artists.  Similarly, we intend to nurture, not threaten, small commercial broadcasters.  Smaller music stations are working hard to serve their local communities while finding the right formula to increase their audience size.  I will continue to work with the broadcasters – large and small, commercial and noncommercial – to strike the right balance."    

"This legislation would ensure that musical performers and songwriters receive fair compensation from all companies across the broadcast spectrum - not just from Web casters, satellite radio providers and cable companies," said Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  "It is an attempt to strike a harmonious balance between fair compensation for artists and a vibrant radio industry in the U.S."   

 

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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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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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Friday, August 8, 2008

SXSW Panel Idea proposals

I have proposed a couple panels for SXSW, which have been

Making Music Sound Better Online: Improving Flow and Presentation: Most music services present music like a jukebox, not a professional DJ. Songs stacked serially, not flowing together for various reasons: tonal balance, loudness levels, speed and intensity. We discuss improving that presentation: automated mixing and segue tools; "harmonic key mixing" tracks; improving sound quality of MP3s and alternative Codecs; audio processing systems keeping subjective loudness and tone consistent.

One thing I want to discuss on this panel is broadcast audio processing, and the FM "loudness wars", and why "loudness" doesn't really matter for internet audio but why consistent audio levels are really important. (It's one of my pet peeves, and there are a lot of big services that don't get that right now.)

Rewriting the DMCA: How to Improve Section 114: This panel will discuss the ugly bits of the Section 114 compulsory license for digital/internet music usage, and what parts are in it for historic reasons that don't apply in todays world; as well as changes that both users of the licenses (webcasters) and content providers (artists, labels) would agree to.

Many people agree that certain aspects of Section 114 are obsolete. Others think the DMCA should provide more protection and compensation for creators. Some want to simplify the rules, and others think it doesn't go far enough.

Imagine we could re-write Section 114 today, knowing what we now know. How would it be different? What would be the same?

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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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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Performance Royalty Debate

I'm going to miss this as we'll be setting up for the Bay Area Takeover day party at SXSW, but if you care about the state of radio royalties, go check out this panel.

south by southwest festivals + conferences: "The Performance Royalty Debate
Room 12AB
Thursday, March 13th
11:45 am - 1:00 pm


The United States is the only territory in which terrestrial radio is exempt from paying performance royalties to performers. A coalition of groups is seeking to reverse this anomaly and bring US policy in line with the rest of the world. This legislation faces strong opposition from the broadcast lobby. What are the issues at stake, and what are the chances that Congress will make it law?"

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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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Sunday, December 2, 2007

It's still Payola

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
In the past, the radio industry was plagued by payola scandals: Stations took money from record companies in exchange for airplay. Now, a group representing recording artists is seeking to turn the pay-for-play strategy on its head: It wants radio stations to pay artists and their record labels when the stations play their music.
What they don't mention is that record labels who want to promote artists will be able to waive these royalty fees if stations agree to feature their artists and releases. Suddenly, we have a legal form of Payola available again.

While I agree that it's only fair for broadcasters to pay reasonable royalties for the sound recording of the music they use, I don't think that exemptions should be allowed on a track by track basis.

With BMI, ASCAP and SESAC (who license the underlying composition of the song) you can't "opt out" of paying the royalty; you have to pay it no matter what. It should be the exact same way with the sound recording royalty.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

musicFIRST makes some proposals for over-the-air royalties

Radio Ink: According to the document obtained by Radio Ink, the coalition is proposing changes to the law that would do away with broadcasters' royalties exemption and have small commercial stations -- "small" is not defined -- pay a flat royalty rate of $5,000 per year, while noncoms and college stations pay $1,000 a year. FinderScreenSnapz001.jpg

Inside Radio has an op/ed piece by John Simson that has a lot of the usual rhetoric we hear from SoundExchange, but this part was very interesting:

Most over-the-air radio is owned by big conglomerates that centralize playlists. They build multi-billion dollar businesses around artists’ music. People who create that music should receive a fair portion of those revenues.

We want to be fair to smaller radio stations, too. For some this payment may be the difference between being profitable and having to struggle. This is why we are in favor of accommodations for smaller radio stations, college stations, talk radio and religious broadcasters. Small radio stations may not be able to pay like the big conglomerates, and we want to accommodate them. We hear them. We hope they hear us.

I'm happy to see SoundExchange is realizing that the diversity of independent radio is valuable. While Simson doesn't say that directly, by making a jab at large conglomerates with centralized playlists he's giving a nod to the independent programmers and station operators out there who are exposing listeners to new and interesting music, not just playing the same old proven hits that everyone knows already.

John goes on to say:

Sometimes Washington, D.C. rhetoric trumps the truth; the musicFIRST Coalition isn’t trying to put radio out of business like the NAB would have you believe. We want us all to march to the same drumbeat, one that won’t be easy to achieve, but that we hope is going to be fair.
One thing John doesn't mention is the international reciprocal rights that this would give US sound recording copyright holders. Currently, US rightsholders don't receive any money for airplay in non-US countries (that do charge broadcasters a royalty for sound recording performances). So while non-US stations are paying these royalties, even if they only play US recordings, all their royalty money goes to the pool of non-US rightsholders.

Once the US establishes a performance right, those collected overseas royalties will be distributed to the appropriate US-based rightsholders.

That's really the big issue here, and I'm convinced that it makes sense.

As long as those performance royalties are reasonable, of course!

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

SaveNetRadio Press Release on SoundExchange's proposed rates for Cable radio services

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The SaveNetRadio Campaign today expressed surprise and hope upon learning that SoundExchange has 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. This proposed rate, effective from 2008 to 2012, is virtually identical to rates endorsed by more than 140 cosponsors of the Internet Radio Equality Act, but rejected by SoundExchange and the Recording Industry Association of America. 54B44B3C-57B9-4DFD-B9F6-EC955947A077.jpg

"Perhaps this agreement means that SoundExchange agrees that 7.5% of revenue is a fair rate; they just prefer that the rate not be legislated," Jake Ward, a spokesperson for the SaveNetRadio campaign said. "The Internet radio industry has never asked for more than royalty parity and an opportunity to grow their businesses to the benefit of artists, consumers, and even record labels. Perhaps SoundExchange's agreement that cable radio should pay 7.5% of revenue is a precursor to an equivalent offer for Internet radio services. It is hard to imagine that recording industry interests would continue to reject Congressional legislation and webcasters' efforts to set fair royalty rates while simultaneously agreeing to the same standard for cable radio services."

The Internet Radio Equality Act -- H.R. 2060 and S. 1353 -- would vacate the March 2nd Copyright Royalty Board's decision and set a 2006-2010 royalty rate at a competitive level with royalties paid by cable and satellite radio services (7.5% of revenue.) The bill would also change the royalty rate-setting standard used in royalty arbitrations, so that the standard applied to webcasters would align with that applied to cable and satellite radio.

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

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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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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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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Notes from the Platform Equality hearing

Rep. Howard Berman, Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property, held a hearing on "Platform Equality", which would end the decades long royalty exemption for terrestrial broadcasts.

House Hearing on Ensuring Artists Fair Compensation

Howard Coble (R-NC), Steve Cohen, (D-TN), Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) were among those voicing support for the proposal to end the terrestrial broadcast sound recording performance royalty exemption.

The three main arguments for this according to Berman:

    • The exemption was never justified under copyright law
      Calbe, Satellite and Internet have to pay these royalties. There should be no discrimination based on platform.
      US us the only major country that doesn't have a sound recording performance right.
  • Terrestrial broadcasters currently only pay royalties to the composers of the music; the "musical work". They do not pay for the use of the sound recording. In 2005, broadcasters paid $450 million in muscical work performance royalties.

    Issa stated that congress is preparing to reorganize section 114 of the copyright act. (This is the sections that covers royalties for internet, satellite and cable services and provides exemptions for some other uses, such as use of music in business environments.)

    Issa spoke a lot about HD radio, and the threat it makes to sale of CDs. He is under the impression that the 64kb or lower compressed digital audio sounds as good as CD. HD does not stand for High Definition. It stands for "Hybrid Digital". Unlike HDTV, which improved the signal quality delivered to consumers, HD radio is not a marked improvement. Signal to noise ratios are improved, but there are audible compression artifacts in the audio.

    Issa also talked about a flood of HD radio recording devices that automatically split tracks coming out soon. (I think he's extremely wrong on this, there is so little uptake on HD hardware, there are only 2 or 3 HD radios on the market right now, and they're selling very poorly. I've heard a statistic several times that say an American is more likely to be run over by a bus than they are to listen to HD radio in the last year.)

    Steve Cohen, who represents Memphis, TN,

    San Jose, CA representative Zoe Lofgren was the only rep to speak out on the importance of small, independent internet (and non-internet) braodcasters. While she's not necessarily opposing the rate, she wants a rate that won't hurt small and non-commercial broadcasters.

    (more later)

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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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    Thursday, June 28, 2007

    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

    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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    Wednesday, June 20, 2007

    Rep. Mike Doyle on Mashups

    Rep. Mike Doyle (Pittsburgh) thinks that Congress should explore ways that music "mashups" could be legally sanctioned.
    Here's your chance, said Rep. Mike Doyle, a Democrat whose district includes Pittsburgh. "You always hear about big powerful interests coming to Washington and writing legislation behind the scenes. How would you design a bill?" The question was directed to the congressman's lunch companion—Gregg Gillis, who under the nom de laptop Girl Talk creates digital hip-hop tunes that mash up hundreds of songs. Gillis, 25, has been gaining fame for his feverishly inventive creations. But while his last CD made the best-of-year list in Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, he can't sell it on iTunes and lives in fear of a ruinous copyright lawsuit by a label representing one of the dozens of performers he's sampled without permission.
    Full article here

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    Tuesday, June 12, 2007

    Save Net Radio benefit Sunday, July 1st

    If you're in San Francisco, on Sunday, July 1st we will be sponsoring an early evening (6pm-10pm) event at Bottom of the Hill to benefit the SaveNetRadio cause. The event will feature semi-acoustic mini-sets from Ted of The Heavenly States, Matt Lutz of The Herms (amongst other performers), raffles for tickets, tee shirts and other cool stuff. Elise from SomaFM's Indie Pop Rocks and Ted from Bagel Radio will be sharing the DJing duties. IODA, SonicLiving, The Owl Magazine, and MyOpenBar are all helping to co-sponsor, it is going to be a great way to spend an early summer Sunday evening.

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    Thursday, May 31, 2007

    WSJ: Online-Radio Royalty Fight Reaches New Pitch

    ``... the Internet Radio Equality Act, would replace higher performance-royalty rates, unveiled in March, which charge Webcasters a fee per song and per listener, with a rate of about 7.5% of revenue. While that could reap the record labels less money in many cases than the per-song, per-play fee schedule that Webcasters are railing against, it would still generate more than the music companies get from other sources. Satellite radio pays about 3.5% to 4% of revenue in performance royalties. Because airplay for years was seen as promotional, regular radio doesn't pay anything, though the record labels are trying to change that.``

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    Wednesday, May 23, 2007

    A response to Senator Dianne Feinstein's response to constituents

    Several people have emailed me copies of the letter that Senator Dianne Feinstein is sending her constituents who wrote or called about the Internet Radio Equality Act. The good news is that her office seems open to the the bill, much more now than in the past. But her response has two points which need to be clarified, below:

    Senator Feinstein writes:

            I understand that this decision has raised serious concerns for webcasters, in particular, who are worried that the increased rate will force their businesses to shut down.  In response, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) introduced a bill, the Internet Radio Equality Act, which would vacate the Board's decision and apply a lower rate for 2006-2010.

    The bill more importantly changes the standards by which the Board calculates the royalty rate; and uses the same calculation methods that satellite radio and cable music services are calculated under. Currently, internet radio royalty rates are calculated on a very different (and less fair) basis than satellite radio.

    Senator Feinstein continues:
            Clearly, there are important interests that need to be balanced.  I am hopeful that it is not too late for a rate compromise to be worked out by the parties involved so that Congress does not need to intervene; however, I will take a close look at the legislation and this issue.

    Even if a settlement occurs between the parties involved (webcasters and SoundExchange), this would only cover SoundExchange member copyright owners. Unlike the statutory law (as defined in Section 114) which allows webcasters to play any publicly released sound recording (as long as they are paying royalties under the statutory license).  A webcaster who signs a settlement agreement with SoundExchange can only legally use recordings by SoundExchange members.  This is why it's so important for congress to pass the Internet Radio Equality Act, which would create a fair statutory rate

    Otherwise, internet broadcasters will not be limited to recordings from SoundExchange members, and a large number of independent artists won't be able to have their music played on the air.

    If you have received a response from Senator Feinstein's office, please respond (either call or write) and try to clarify these issues with them.

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    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    NAB supports Internet Radio Equality Act

    From the trade journal FMBQ: "The radio board of the National Association of Broadcasters recognizes that the new streaming rates established by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) will cause significant harm to broadcasters that stream over the Internet," the NAB said in a statement. "The radio board supports a comprehensive approach to addressing the CRB rate determination, including legislation that vacates the CRB decision and establishes an interim royalty rate structure."

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    Thursday, April 26, 2007

    Inslee introduces "Internet Radio Equality Act"

    A bill has been introduced that will save independent internet radio by setting these royalties at the same level paid by satellite radio services, a reasonable amount (7.5% of gross revenues) which will benefit the artists as well as not bankrupt net radio stations. Call your Representative right now and ask to cosponsor the "Internet Radio Equality Act", just introduced by Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Donald Manzullo (R-IL). This bill will set royalty rates that internet radio pays to the same reasonable level that satellite radio pays. Please call the House switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak to your representative.  (find your representative).

    From the press release from SaveNetRadio.org:

    The Internet Radio Equality Act would vacate the CRB’s decision and set a 2006-2010 royalty rate at the same level currently paid by satellite radio services (7.5% of revenue.) The bill would also change the royalty rate-setting standard used in royalty arbitrations, so that the standards applying to webcasters would align with the standard that applies to satellite radio royalty arbitrations.
    “The illogical and unrealistic royalty rates set by the CRB have placed the future of an entire industry in jeopardy,” stated Jake Ward [spokesman for SaveNetRadio.org]. “This bill is a critical step to preserve this vibrant and growing medium, and to develop a truly level playing field where webcasters can compete with satellite radio.

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