Thousands of U.S. webcasters plan to turn off the music and go silent this Tuesday, June 26, to draw attention to an impending royalty rate increase that, if implemented, would lead to the virtual shutdown of this country’s Internet radio industry.
In March, the Copyright Royalty Board announced that it would raise royalties for Internet broadcasters, moving them from a per-song rate to a per-listener rate. The increase would be made retroactive to the beginning of 2006 and would double over the next five years. After the announcement, a group of broadcasters spearheaded by National Public Radio petitioned the CRB for a rehearing, but a panel of judges denied the request less than a month later. Internet radio sites would be charged per performance of a song. A “performance” is defined as the streaming of one song to one listener; thus a station that has an average audience of 500 listeners racks up 500 “performances” for each song it plays.
Many webcasters are planning to shut off access to their streams entirely, while other webcasters plan to replace their music streams with long periods of silence (or static or ocean sounds or similar) interspersed with occasional brief public service announcements on the subject. Internet-only webcasters and broadcasters that simulcast online will alert their listeners that “silence” is what Internet radio may be reduced to after July 15th, the day on which 17 months’ worth of retroactive royalty payments — at new, exceedingly high rates — are due to the SoundExchange collection organization, following a recent Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) decision.
Jake Ward, a spokesman for Save Net Radio, said:
“The arbitrary and drastic rate increases set by the Copyright Royalty Board on March 2nd threaten the very livelihood of thousands of webcasters and their millions of listeners throughout the country. “The campaign to save Internet radio - a genuine grassroots movement comprised of hundreds of thousands of webcasters, artists and independent labels, and Net radio listeners - has quickly brought this issue to the national forefront and the halls of Congress, but there is still more to be done before the approaching deadline of July 15th. On Tuesday, thousands of webcasters will call on their millions of listeners to join the fight to save Internet radio and contact their Congressional representatives to ask for their support of the Internet Radio Equality Act.”