Audio News for May 2, 2007

by | May 2, 2007 | Audio News | 0 comments

Internet Radio May Cease on May 15 – As we reported earlier, the Library of Congress judges who oversee copyright law licenses decreed recalibration of the royalty fees owed by Internet broadcasters, effective May 15 and extending retroactively back to cover all of 2006 as well. The entire innovation of streaming audio outlets on the Net  – made possible by the introduction of Real Audio in 1994, which allowed listening to the beginning of an audio file on any computer while the rest of it was downloading – could be silenced by the Copyright Office decree. It is due to the lobbying of the major record companies, who persuaded the judges that Internet stations should pay much more onerous royalties than conventional radio stations pay.

Netcasters are being asked to pay not only a royalty to the songwriters, but also to the record companies, with the crippling requirement that the royalty be levied on a per-listener basis (which on-air stations don’t have to do). Netcasters are not able to bring in the sort of advertising revenues that commercial on-air stations can. Nonprofit outlets can’t bring in any except for very small listener donations. Most of the on-air public radio stations also netcast their signals.  Such stations are now asked to pay a flat fee up to a certain number of listeners, and when that threshold is reached, they pay the commercial rate – which can mean a tenfold increase. The stations will have to turn off their Netcast signals which allowed them to be accessed all over the world. Even if all Internet stations could afford the outrageous new fees (which they can’t), the detailed bookkeeping required to report all the music played is such a time-consuming task that most outlets would be forced to hire a new worker just to do that – and many Net outlets don’t even have one full time person. The public radio stations just set up the Net feed and let it go 24/7.

Only the giant corporate webcasters such as Clear Channel will survive with the new fee payments – those conglomerates owning huge chunks of the radio spectrum and properties already, due to the failure of the FCC to do its job. Net radio reaches about 50 million Americans a month as well as other listeners around the world. It offers a gloriously-expanded spectrum of music choices for consumers as an alternative to the monotony of commercial radio. Every sort of music imaginable is available – just look at the list of options in iTunes, and that’s only a portion of it! There is an all-Grateful Dead outlet, an all Jimmy Buffet outlet, at least two all-Christmas music outlets! There are many old radio program and audio drama outlets – any music on any of those shows would come under the new fee regulations.  Says UK reporter John Naughton of The Observer: “It’s just another case of how the owners of intellectual property are trying to choke off the future.”

This is not a hoax like that “SaveNPR” chain-spam; this is the real thing!  Webcasters are in full counter-strike mode with the May 15th deadline staring them in the face. They are appealing the new regulations, and struggling to get a new bill – The Internet Radio Equality Act – passed in time. Act now to ask your congressperson to cosponsor H.R. 2060. More details at SaveNetRadio.org

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