Monday, July 16, 2007

Still Streaming, Still On Death Row

The July 15th due date for collection of the new crippling copyright royalty rates has come and gone. SoundExchange has promised not to collect these fees for an unspecified period while a fair rate is negotiated. The public statements from SoundExchange (aka the RIAA, aka the major labels) spokespeople have been inconsistent and sometimes contradictory, which is worrisome from an organization we hope is negotiating in good faith. The fact that late last week the subject of imposing Digital Rights Management restrictions on streaming media suddenly became part of the SoundExchange demands is troubling, to say the least.

While hundreds of stations have decided to go dark, BAGeL Radio and many other webcasters (including our good friends SomaFM, Pandora, AccuRadio, and Live365) have decided to continue broadcasting through this precarious period. Personally, I feel like we are still looking down the barrel of a gun -- at any moment negotiations could break down and that gun could go off.

Short term and disparate deals may seem attractive because the industry has been placed into such peril, but such deals will only leave us back in this very same situation before long. Check out this article about copyright royalty rates from five years ago -- it reads much like recent news articles on the subject. No one wants to go through this again in another 18 months, or even 5 years -- who wants to invest their time (and money) in a venture standing on such uncertain footing? We need a more permanent solution.

Thanks in large part to the SaveNetRadio coalition we have made great progress in educating government officials, artists, the mainstream media, and listeners about this issue. Most people now realize that if the RIAA gets its way, the vast majority of artists ("dead webcasters pay no royalties"), listeners (vast decrease in stations to choose from), and (obviously) webcasters all lose. This now common knowledge, reflected in the media coverage and in the outpouring of support from internet radio listeners, has given our side great momentum.

We will use this momentum to continue our fight to pass the Internet Radio Equality Act (HR 2060). SoundExchange may continue to cloud the issue with smokescreens (CD sales are down, it must be internet radio's fault) and falsehoods (webcasters make money from music but don't pay royalties), and we will remain vigilant in challenging and exposing these misleading statements. Only when it is protected by law will internet radio be safe from the huge corporations which already control so much of the music industry and seek to dominate the rest.

We're still streaming. Thanks for listening.

Update: Read another take on the current situation.


Anonymous said...

As a Brit and looking at this from the outside to an extent I am convinced of 2 things.
1 whatever happens we are next.
2 There appears to be a goal of killing the small streamer.
I find it ironic that in the sixties here in UK we had offshore radio stations the government of the day brought out legislation to kill of the then legal alternative off the air. that was 40 years ago on august 14th. broadcast radio dont like compatition

Ted said...

Thanks so much for your comment, Mike, you are right on. The RIAA is already working on making bankruptcy-level rates standard across borders (how anti-the-point-of-the-internet is that?!?).

The big labels don't like having a level playing field. Independent internet radio helps to level the playing field by providing access to independent artists, labels, and smaller music genres regular radio is unable to serve.