Copyright Royalty Board Continues To Make Life Difficult For Webcasting

from the why-bother? dept

I have significant problems with any sort of compulsory licensing scheme, which basically gives the power to a tiny group of people to establish the business models and cost structures for an entire industry. It’s as if people who support compulsory licensing don’t believe the free market works at all. The latest example of this is that the Copyright Royalty Board, which controls pretty much everything having to do with copyright compulsory licenses (despite often showing little to no understanding of technology) is now saying that anyone who broadcasts music online should have to submit full playlist data on every song they play to SoundExchange, the RIAA-spinoff in charge of “distributing” (if you call what it does distributing) money to copyright holders. While some entities already do this, it does seem like quite a burden for others, but that’s what you get when you let a small group of people decide all the rules.

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Comments on “Copyright Royalty Board Continues To Make Life Difficult For Webcasting”

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abba12 says:

Record Companies

I’m actually directly involved in internet radio and this has been a messy situation for awile. The copyright board decided to up the royalty fees in recent years to an extent that most couldn’t handle. There were petitions and calls on the government, and eventually that mess was sorted with many music stations managing to keep their heads above water, but they just keep making it harder and harder.

Basically, despite the fact the artists themselves support internet radio as it can give amazing exposure for smaller groups, the record companies don’t make enough from it. Therefor they are trying to make it as hard as possible to do music internet radio without actually all out banning it.

Why can’t they see its HELPING the artists, the artists WANT internet radio. When the new royalty fees came up there were artists petitioning with us!

Anonymous Coward says:

You know, ten years ago I was an extremely diligent supporter of organizations like the RIAA and MPAA. After a decade of watching the RIAA cheat it’s artists, threaten and blackmail it’s customers, and countless Payola schemes to try to undercut any real competition?

Let’s see, SoundExchange gets to collect money (for the artists) whether or not the artist want them to or not. The artists can get their money, but only by becoming a member of SoundExchange (and thereby having to give the labels a slice of that profit) or SoundExchange gets to keep all the money.

THIS is EXACTLY the purpose for which copyright was created to prevent in the first place. THEY are the ones guilty of actual copyright infringement. And the RIAA wants to know why nobody cares what they think is legal or not anymore.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well, that explains why so many artists are still on the list. I ran a little experiment with the list of unpaid artists (which looks like it’s been up-dated since the previous article – Sting and Axl Rose are no longer listed…). I looked down the list for the first name I recognised – Acen, an old skool rave artist who recorded a couple of classics in the early 90s.

How hard was he to track down? Search for Acen in Google, and the first result is the MySpace page for his current film production company. This links to, which references all his old hardcore tunes, so it’s definitely the same guy.

I wonder if anybody’s even told him he’s owed money, or if it’s just not worth the effort to collect it. This annoys me greatly.

Program Director says:

Simulcasting Too

Another issue is for any terrestrial radio stations that want to simulcast (webstream what they’re broadcasting). I work for a college radio station that pays for blanket licensing to ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and a few others for the right to broadcast the albums we own. SoundExchange contends that even though we already pay the big boys, we somehow haven’t paid artists their royalties, and so they’re not double-dipping. The information SoundExchange asks for is ludicrous–not ONLY do they want playlist information for the music played over a webstream, but they want to know about any OTHER material that goes over the stream as well–including station ID’s, educational programming, underwriting, or news.

Anonymous Coward says:

What the recording industry feers

>>Why can’t they see its HELPING the artists, the artists WANT internet radio. When the new royalty fees came up there were artists petitioning with us!

Bingo. That is exactly what the recording industry is afraid of. The recording industry needs to maintain control. The worst possible scenario for the recording industry is that artists find a way to be commercially successful without the recording industry as we know it.

bhance (user link) says:

Lost artists, and lost artist royalties

I too spend a lot of time talking to and working with small-market stations on this same issue. I run a service that helps them generate reports of use for SoundExchange.

It is my experience that the vast majority of these stations and their staff *all* agree on the idea of artist compensation. They get it, that in a perfect world, this recordkeeping they have to submit is supposed to benefit the artists they play — and more importantly, actually get a royalty paycheck into their hands at some point.

No, they’re not happy that it means having to

a) retool their streaming setup
b) retool their business processes
c) retool their recordkeeping
d) sink a lot of staff hours and time into the recordkeeping

But at the end of the day, if what they’re doing **actually helps get the artists paid** then the majority of them support the idea and are willing to head in that direction.

The problem is that these stations are jumping through the hoops — and then they see that SoundExchange doesn’t keep their half of the deal. They read that SE only pays out a little over half of the money it takes in. And that SoundExchange absorbs the royalties in 3 years if they aren’t claimed. And that SoundExchange can’t find artists like “Metallica” and “The Mormon Tabernacle Choir” and people that you and I can find in a minute using a single brain cell and Google. And that SoundExchange is siding with and funding even more efforts (via musicFirst) to hamstring and cripple Internet Radio with regulation and even more onerous legislation…

(And as AC pointed out above, you can’t even cash your SoundExchange check without becoming a supporting member, which means member contributions, which means you don’t get your money unless you also fund SE’s behavior. And they, in turn, get to say “Look at all these people we signed up last year” when in reality the artist just cashed a check that was theirs in the first place…)

I, too ran a little experiment with that SoundExchange “Lost artist list” and I found almost 100 of the lost artists for $40, using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. (see: As someone posted above, it’s trivial to find these people. it’s stupidly easy.

I estimated that I could take a crack at the ENTIRE SoundExchange lost artist list for ~$3,300. Considering SoundExchange spent something like **$50,000** last year on royalties ALONE, it is easy to see where their priorities lie.

So guess what a lot of the radio stations say? “Forget it. If what we’re doing doesn’t actually get the artists paid, forget it.”

I’ve said it in numerous places, and I’ll say it again: The CRB needs to stop looking at the front-end part of the equation and start concentrating on shaping up the back-end of the equation.

J says:

the "free market"?

>> It’s as if people who support compulsory licensing don’t believe the free market works at all.

If there’s anything the history of webcasting demonstrates, it’s that in this area the free market *doesn’t* work. Do you think for a minute, Mike, that in the absence of a compulsory license any of the major labels would license anything for webcast? The entire history (remember that the CRT only imposes rules that the labels ask for) reflects a decision on the industry’s part that it would rather kill webcasting than make money from it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sirius Radio is raising the rates saying that you have to pay more because a “royalty board’ ordered it. Actually you aren’t paying more because of the “royalty board”, we are. Did you try negotiating with them? Haggling? Refusing to pay? Threatening to sue? Telling them that this raise could ruin your business because this is a terrible time to raise rates-and that you might lose customers because of this? Did you complain to any regulatory agency about this royalty board? Were listeners informed that there was any kind of contract between Sirius and a royalty board? Who are they anyway? How do they wield such power?” Do they actually have more power than the broadcast industry? Is the rest of the industry taking a hit from them? What actions is the rest of the industry taking-are they just laying down and taking it?

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