Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Webcasters, broadcasters fight for internet radio

Not only are internet webcasters up in arms over planned royalty fee increases for online music streamers, but traditional broadcast concerns are fighting the ruling as well.

Lawyers for National Public Radio (NPR) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) are in Washington this week, planning legal action aimed at overturning a ruling from US Copyright Royalty Judges which raised royalty fees for webcasters high enough for some to predict the demise of Internet radio.

"Right now the thought is that the initial response needs to be a legal response," General Manager Roger LaMay, of NPR affiliate WXPN, told internetnews.com. WXPN is a non-commercial member-supported radio service of the University of Pennsylvania, and programs an innovative music-heavy format.

"If this were to go into effect it's going to have public radio stations looking for ways to cut back what we do, as opposed to expanding. Now, there is significant dis-incentive when you're talking about services that are committed to public service," LaMay said.

Commercial Internet radio broadcasters were equally upset. "Left unchanged, these rates would be disastrous. It will not only end Internet radio, but will also stifle innovation as entrepreneurs and investors will abandon this space - leaving a vacuum that will be quickly filled by illegal unlicensed services with no intention of creating legitimate businesses," a spokesperson for commercial webcaster Pandora said in an email. Pandora founder Tim Westergren said his company plans to follow NPR and CPB into court.

Willem Dicke, a spokesperson for SoundExchange, was on the defensive. "We're all fans of Internet radio. We don't want to see Internet radio go away. These are negotiations. We're not trying to stick it to anybody. In terms of what happens next? Either side could appeal to the U.S. District court," Dicke told internetnews.com.

LaMay claims that the proposed rate hike will hurt independent musicians, who rely on Internet radio to expose their music, the most.

That's not SoundExchange's goal, Dicke said. "We just want them to play fairly when they use the work of musicians and artists and ultimately the market place is going to determine who succeeds and who doesn't." Dicke said.

"There's nobody in public radio that's making money overall on their [Web] streams," LaMay said, "We're doing them because we think it's the right thing to do."

You can read the rest at Internetnews.com.


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