Radio Webcasters have cued up for a funeral dirge, claiming Internet radio has been dealt a deathblow. Last week, James Billington, librarian of Congress, laid out the final decision on royalty fees that Internet radio stations must fork over to the recording industry. Although the rates were reduced to half the proposed fee, Internet radio stations, regardless of size or profit, must now pay seven-one hundredths of a cent per song, per listener, to record labels.
The Webcasters, who have bitterly opposed the issue since it was first proposed in 1998 by the U.S. Copyright Office, say the reduced rate is still far too high, while the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) insists the fees are still too low.
Mere hours after the decision, Internet radio stations began to shut down — netrockradio.com announced its demise, citing fees that were “specifically designed to shut down small webcasters,” and “make it impossible for a non-profit station to survive.”
The Digital Media Association, a trade organization for Webcasters, says it will press Congress to overturn the decision and create an even lower fee. However, given the molasseslike pace of legislation, that doesn’t promise relief any time soon, and Webcasters have all of 45 days to cough up the money they owe retroactively from 1998.
And what of IPM, the independent, nonprofit Detroit-area station that Metro Times featured last week?
“I’m not convinced we’ve seen the end of this,” says the station’s creator Bob Perye. “I don’t play RIAA music, so I won’t be paying RIAA fees, but I’m still concerned.” Perye is fiercely committed to keeping IPM up and running. “I’ll move the server to Canada before I buckle to those assholes.”Sarah Klein is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org