Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Internet Radio in Jeopardy

Last week I wrote up a post on Download Squad about a ruling by the Copyright Royalty Board that could put small webcasters out of business. And when I say small, I mean groups like Pandora, Last.fm, Radio Paradise, and probably most of the music streams you can find on Shoutcast or similar services.

The Copyright Royalty Board wants to raise the license fees that webcasters have to pay, to the point where most of these entities won't be able to afford to stream music at all. Why does this board get to make such a unilateral decision? Basically because back in the 90s, Congress didn't really understand the differences between streaming, downloading, and broadcasting.

The recording industry made the case that internet radio was a threat to the traditional business model for music, because webcasters would be sending out digitally perfect copies of songs, which users could then save to their computers without paying.

In fact, if you know what you're doing you probably can save copies of the music you're streaming on your computer. But you can also stick a tape cassette into a tape deck and record music that's broadcast over the air. The difference is, webcasters have to pay extra licensing fees because their music is digital.

Over the past week, internet radio supporters have put together a Save The Streams coalition. Radio Paradise, Pandora, and other sites have maintained blogs with detailed information for anyone interested in helping. But it's not entirely clear what power the common folk have to save net radio other than lobbying Congress to revisit the law.

It's possible that larger webcasters like Yahoo! will stick around because they can afford the higher fees. Or companies like Yahoo! may decide that they can get by just fine with the umpteen other arms of the organization and close down their music streaming services.

Some more info:

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