Internet Radio’s Last Weekend? Maye Not

Lynne Kiesling

Reason’s Jeff Taylor has written an article that gives some insight into the history and motivation behind the current listener-based royalty rates that will go into effect on Sunday, unless a last-minute compromise occurs.

Turns out digital is not perfect. Digital can be crap. And a perfect digital copy of perfect crap is still crap.

But that was not widely understood in October 1992, when President George Bush signed the Audio Home Recording Act, which taxed digital audio equipment and media in order to “pay back” copyright holders for their added risk in this brave new digital era. Next, the World Intellectual Property Organization debates of the mid-90s advanced the idea that the United State had to “normalize” its copyright rules to the rest of world. A world that, interestingly enough, lacked either fair use or a First Amendment. The bit was flipping.

This in turn birthed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, the proximate cause of Net radio’s demise, albeit routed through an amazingly facile U.S. Copyright office. The Copyright Office has sided with current copyright holders in every meaningful decision on digital audio, dashing hopes that it would serve as a of bulwark against the immense lobbying power the copyright holders hold over Congress.

Make no mistake, the death of Net radio is merely a means to an end—the end being the rollback of any notion of fair use of copyrighted digital content. The goal is nothing less than a licensing regime for all digital music that recognizes no ownership rights, fair or otherwise. In its place will be a digital licensing fee tacked on to every broadband customer’s bill, right alongside the other mysterious fees and taxes that serve the political status quo.

This would be a pathetic outcome. WAIT, WAIT … I literally just clicked over to WOXY to check on updates, and they post a link to this this Wired article saying that the parties have negotiated a temporary reprieve:

For now, the parties involved in what’s described as ongoing negotiations have agreed to waive at least temporarily the minimum charge of $6,000 per channel required under a scheme created by the Copyright Royalty Board, or CRB.


The deal affects only webcasters participating in CRB hearings convened in Congress this week aimed at winning a reprieve for the industry, according to a source familiar with the negotiations who requested anonymity. Although the deal is for now provisional, one participant expressed relief.

Wired will be providing live updates throughout the day at their Listening Post blog.