The Pureplay Webcasters settlement agreement, which we summarized here, was published in the Federal Register on Friday, starting the 30 day clock running for the election of the deal by existing webcasters. While this deal offers better per performance rates to large webcasters than offered by the rates established by the Copyright Royalty Board, and higher permissible listening levels to Small Commercial Pureplay webcasters than allowed under the Microcaster deal, this option still is not for everyone. For larger webcasters, there is a minimum fee of 25% of total revenue, so companies with multiple lines of business will not want to opt into the deal. For smaller webcasters, the fees are higher than under the Microcaster deal, including a $25,000 minimum yearly fee, and there are per performance rates that are charged when the webcaster offers services that are "syndicated," i.e. played through a website other than that of the webcaster itself. So electing this deal is right only for larger "small pureplay" webcasters who have revenues over $250,000 (where they will be paying royalties in excess of the $25,000 minimum fee under any deal) and those entities nearing the audience caps of the Microcaster deal. Nevertheless, for those webcasters who fit within the constraints of the deal, it offers benefits over the other existing options. The opt-in date set by the deal is August 17, 2009. The forms to opt into the the Small Pureplay webcasters agreement are here. The forms for larger Pureplay webcasters are here.
Note that this is just one of many options available to webcasters, each tailored to webcasters of specific types. Noncommercial webcasters associated with NPR or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting have their own deal, where essentially CPB pays the royalties. See our description of this deal, here. Streaming done by broadcasters, who would not want to take the "pureplay" deal as their broadcast revenues would be subject to the royalties, have their own settlement agreement, which we described here and here, setting out per performance rates different than those arrived at by the CRB. Small commercial webcasters can elect the "Microcaster" deal, which we described here. And for those entities that don’t fit under any of these categories, they will have to pay the CRB rates, which we described here and here. The Radio and Internet Newsletter recently ran a good, basic summary of these alternatives, here. Note that there still is another two week period where, under the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2009, agreements can be reached with SoundExchange by other webcaster groups to potentially pay rates that are different from any of those agreed to so far.
What groups remain who are not satisfied by the existing deals that offer some discount off of the CRB rates? Noncommercial groups not affiliated with NPR, including religious broadcasters, are bound by the CRB rates, which give these webcasters up to 159,140 monthly aggregate tuning hours for $500 per year, but they have to pay the full commercial rates if they have larger audiences – rates that could end up being 10 times higher than those paid under the Small Webcaster Settlement Act provisions which expired in 2006. Larger webcasters, including those that are part of portal sites or other sites that offer far more than webcasting, or those that offer an aggregator service providing hosting, bandwidth and other services to very small webcasters, also do not easily fit into any of the existing categories, as they will end up paying royalties on revenues not affiliated with their webcasting service.
If no deal is reached by these groups, the CRB marches on with its proceeding to determine rates for 2011 to 2015. Direct case exhibits for these webcasters are due at the end of September so, if no deals are reached, there will be more litigation next year to determine what the rates will be for webcasters not covered by any of these deals, or for ones who decide to opt out at a later date.