In the latest of many arguments about the various rights and payments companies need to pay for streaming music online, a district court has ruled that AOL, Yahoo and RealNetworks most likely owe millions
to ASCAP for songs that they streamed to users between 2002 and today (and continuing on to 2009). This has nothing to do with the record labels -- ASCAP represents the songwriters -- but is yet another extraneous "license" where the terms are hardly clear, but basically serve to make it more difficult for anyone to play music. It was never in question that these sites would need to pay some kind of royalty -- the question was how much. The odd part of this ruling, though, is that the rate set by the judge is likely to be higher than the rate that traditional terrestrial radio pays. If there ever were a formula for making companies less interested in streaming music online -- this might be it. Of course, it's quite likely that this ruling will be appealed, so it's far from over.