RealTime IT News

Webcasters Plan a Tuesday of Silence

The sounds of silence will be deafening Tuesday when webcasters plan to cut their feeds for a day to protest an increase in Internet radio royalty rates. The idea, event organizers say, is to give listeners a taste of what will happen if the new rates actually kick in on July 15.

The national "Day of Silence" will be marked with some webcasters simply turning off their streams while others will intersperse stretches of silence with public service announcements (PSAs) about the fee hike. The webcasters claim the new fees will force many of them out of business.

"On June 26, millions of net radio listeners will experience a preview of a post July 15 Internet radio industry decimated by these increased royalty rates and arbitrary fees," SaveNetRadio's Jake Ward said in an e-mail statement to internetnews.

Since the March announcement by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) that nearly triples the royalty rates for music played over Internet radio stations, webcasters have been furiously lobbying Congress for a reprieve while seeking at least a temporary stay of the rate hike in the courts.

Musicians have also flooded Capitol Hill carrying SaveNetRadio's message that July 15 will be the day music dies on the Internet. On that day, 17 months worth of retroactive royalty payments based on the new fees will come due.

Whether that actually happens, though, is problematic thanks to pending legislative or court action. The webcasters plan to hammer home the importance of contacting lawmakers through their PSAs on Tuesday.

"We are encouraged by the number of webcasters who have chosen to stand together in a national day of silence," Ward said. "The diversity of those webcasters in terms of size, style and geography is a clear reflection of the importance of this issue and reality of this threat."

The new rates for commercial and for larger non-commercial webcasters are based on a pay-per-play rate of $.0008 for 2006, $.0011 for 2007, $.0014 for 2008, $.0018 for 2009 and $.0019 for 2010.

The three-judge CRB panel denied motions by webcasters and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) for a rehearing on the royalty rates. The CRB said none of the motions "made a sufficient showing of new evidence or clear error or manifest injustice that would warrant a rehearing."

The CRB also refused to stay the implementation of the new royalty rates until all legal appeals have been exhausted. "Congress determined that these rates would go into effect, notwithstanding any pending motions for rehearing," the CRB wrote in its decision.

Those decisions prompted Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Don Manzullo (R-Ill.) to file the Internet Radio Equality Act, which would vacate the CRB decision and apply the same royalty rate-setting standard to commercial Internet and satellite radio, which pays a lower rate than webcasters. Similar legislation is pending in the Senate.

The Digital Media Association (DiMA), National Public Radio and a coalition of small commercial webcasters have also filed for a stay of the rates with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.