Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Webcaster Royalty Rates Update

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Assuring Fair Rates and Rules across Platforms" did not go well for webcasters. Instead of discussing the merits of royalty rate platform parity (where webcasters would pay rates similar to satellite and cable radio), Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-RIAA) -- who always advocates for the Major Labels -- predictably wasted everyone's time pushing the PERFORM Act, legislation based on RIAA talking points.

PERFORM instists that internet radio stations are music distribution services (read: download), not performance services (which radio has always been considered), and as such internet radio should pay crazy high licensing fees for playing music. This premise is patently false and simply parrots an RIAA party line.

At the hearing a stooge from Geffen Records pulled a McCain, conflating internet radio with illegal file-sharing. And I quote, “The last time we had a technology…that was thought of as necessary for the industry, for the good of music, necessary for the good of the people, it was called Napster.”

Another poisonous part of the PERFORM Act requires that internet radio abandon MP3 streaming in favor of a crippled-by-DRM audio format. This also parrots an RIAA lie, one which suggests that music sales are down because internet radio fans are copying songs from streams and saving these files instead of buying music.

"Stream ripping" is hardly the reason music sales are down. Recordings of internet radio streams are very low-fidelity and contain songs that often bleed into one another due to cross-fading and sometimes have DJs talking over them. Recording internet radio is like when I was in junior high school and wanted to record that new Killing Joke single they were playing on WLIR -- I used to hit play/pause on my cassette deck. The resultant mix tapes were hardly a replacement for a record collection. Those mixes served to reinforce which albums I needed to go buy.

If anyone wants to know why people choose to share files instead of buying them, one needs to look no further than the results of recent decisions by both Yahoo! Music and Microsoft Music Network to close their digital doors rendering useless music files consumers thought they'd purchased (What? You thought you bought songs just because you clicked on a button that said "BUY" and then paid for them?! Silly consumers!). It should be noted that DRM was forced onto the retailers by the RIAA, and that music industry people now suggest that consumers who are pissed about their soon-to-evaporate music purchases should have read their End User License Agreements more closely. Seriously. That's the response. And they wonder why otherwise law-abiding folks might prefer to find illegal (but not DRM-crippled) files to download instead!

Several small webcasters submitted written statements to the Sentate Judiciary committee to make sure that we were heard from. Read our friend Rusty of SomaFM's statement here, and Kurt of AccuRadio's statement here.

1 comment:

Spencer said...

Well said. I would NEVER take a song from a streaming internet radio or through myspace.

There are PLENTY of other places to find it, without worrying about ripping it from a stream... that's incredible.

Also, comparing Napster to Internet Radio is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. That guy is a total d.b.!