Radio Paradise, one of the many non-profit net radio stations due to die as a result of the Copyright Review Board’s recent misguided ruling on performance royalty payments, has started a blog to draw attention to the problems they and other netcasters face. RP proprietor Bill Goldsmith kicks Save Our Internet Radio off with a hard-hitting essay that highlights a fact which may be unfamiliar to many, that net radio stations are being forced to pay a fee that terrestrial broadcasters don’t:
Yes, both FM stations and Internet stations pay royalties to songwriters and/or music publishers. But the royalties in question are owed to the owners of performance copyrights, which means, in most cases, record companies – and to them, FM stations pay nothing at all.
How is it possible for such a massive disparity to exist? For the answer to that we need to go back to the 1990s, when music industry lobbyists persuaded Congress to include wording in two pieces of legislation (the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995 and the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998) that drew a sharp division between analog and digital broadcasts. Their reasoning was that a digital radio transmission was not a radio broadcast at all, but a sequence of perfect digital copies of music performances provided to the user, who could then copy them rather than paying to own a CD.
Congress, bulldozed by the same crew that extended copyrights to 75 years, dutifully did the industry’s bidding, IN SPITE OF THE FACT THAT THE LAW HELPED NO ONE, NOT EVEN THE PEOPLE LOBBYING FOR IT.
Goldsmith spells out the history (familiar, it seems, to everyone but the RIAA Luddites):
Crippling an exciting, groundbreaking industry like Internet radio is certainly not in the best interests of the public, nor that of musical artists, and not even – if history is any judge – of the music industry itself. Just as they were unable to see how the advent of home music taping actually spurred the sale of LPs and CDs, they are unable to tell exactly what impact Internet radio and other forms of digital media will have on the future of their industry – and to behave as if they do know, and for Congress to go along with them, is a grave error, and public disservice, that needs to be recognized and corrected.
So, if we are building a business – even a non-commercial business like Radio Paradise – by the use of copyrighted material, isn’t it fair that we pay for its use? Perhaps it is. But the fact remains that what we are doing does not differ in any substantive way from what a company like Clear Channel is doing, and to move forward under the fiction that such a distinction exists is neither fair nor rational.
Of course, Clear Channel lives in the pocket of politicians, nonprofits like Radio Paradise don’t.