Will Congress Rescue Internet Radio?

Internet radio broadcasts, jeopardized by a royalty payment ruling earlier this year, would get a reprieve under bipartisan legislation introduced in Congress. The Internet Radio Equality Act would roll back dramatic rate increases handed down earlier this year by the Copyright Royalty Board and instead charge royalty payments for Web-based radio broadcasting, or streaming, in line with those paid by satellite radio. Under the rules issued by the CRB, an agency charged by Congress with overseeing royalty disputes, streamers would be charged 8 cents a song retroactively to 2006 – a rate that would increase to 19 cents a song in 2010. For public broadcasters, the CRB set fees at a flat $500 a month but only for a set level of listening hours per month, one that many station owners said they would easily exceed and thus have to pay much higher fees. Internet streamers said the increases amounted to 30 to 300 percent increases over what they are paying now.

The new legislation, proposed by Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Don Manzullo (R-Ill.), would instead charge streamers a flat fee of 7.5 percent of their revenue through 2010. A companion piece is expected to be introduced in the Senate this week.

Advocates championed the bill as more in line with reality and a proper response to the public outcry from critics who said the ruling could kill Internet radio streaming. Inslee spokeswoman Christine Hanson said the congressman’s office alone received about 1,000 complaints about the CRB fees, and members of Congress had received more than 400,000 e-mails demanding the fees be changed, so the sponsors are hoping quick action can be taken on the legislation. Radio stations large and small as well as Internet-only broadcasters who have gotten into the streaming business were united in their opposition to the new royalty fees and had been preparing a court challenge. (Jeff Cox, CNNMoney.com contributing writer)

Well, I for one hope there is no hesitation to put this Legislation through, as it would overturn rulings that boosted Web radio royalties and align them with what satellite broadcasters pay.

This is one to watch.

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About grnarrow

Setlist Architect/Art Scene Checker-Outer/Sound Feeler
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