In recent months, SoundExchange has been reaching out to webcasters seeking to identify those who are delinquent in their royalty payments for music used on the Internet. Numerous broadcasters and webcasters have received calls or letters from SoundExchange seeking information about apparent underpayments or missing mandatory reports of royalty liability that should be filed regularly by webcasters.

Some webcasters may believe that, as the rates for Internet radio music use for 2006-2010 have not yet been established, they don’t have to pay anything until those rates are set. That is not correct, as the legislation adopted in 2005 which established the Copyright Royalty Board also specifically required that fees be paid at the old rates until a new rate structure is adopted. Some broadcasters have assumed that their ASCAP and BMI fees, which cover “streaming,” cover all costs of putting their signals on the Internet. Again, that is not the case, as the ASCAP and BMI cover only the use of the musical composition (the song) on the Internet.  The SoundExchange fee compensates the copyright holder in the actual performance of the music (the money that is collected goes to the copyright holder of the recording and the musicians who play on the recording).   The SoundExchange fee is entirely different from ASCAP and BMI, and is imposed only for non-broadcast digital transmissions of recorded music. Broadcasters do not pay a SoundExchange fee for their over-the-air broadcasts, and may not be familiar with this fee, but it is one that should not be overlooked, especially given SoundExchange’s recent attempts to identify noncompliant webcasters.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the royalties for use of music in an Internet radio broadcast, a memo outlining the requirements is available <here>