Monday, July 16th is the first business day after the effective date of the new Internet Radio royalties set by the Copyright Royalty Board.  As we wrote earlier this week, the Court of Appeals has denied the requested stay of the effective date.  And, while a bill was introduced in Congress this week to provide for a legislative stay, that will not be acted on by Monday, nor will action occur on the broader Internet Radio Equality Act.  Thus, many webcasters are asking what they should do on July 16.  Some have suggested that they should stop streaming, while others have wondered what will happen if they don’t pay the higher royalties.  This decision is one that each webcaster should make carefully, in consultation with their counsel and business advisers.  But there are some practical considerations that should be taken into account when making the decision as to what should be done on Monday.

First, it should be noted that not all webcasters are equally affected by the royalty rate increase.  Larger commercial webcasters, including most broadcasters who are streaming their signals on the Internet, should have been paying royalties up to now that, while lower than those adopted by the CRB, have increased by "only" about 40%  – from $.00076 per performance (per song per listener) to $.0011 per performance.  These rates will continue to increase between now and 2010 so that they eventually will reach $.0019 per song per listener.  But for now, the increase is relatively modest (as compared with some of the other increases discussed below).  While there are reportedly at least some conversations going on between SoundExchange and groups representing broadcasters and large webcasters about reaching some sort of accommodation on royalties, there is no certainty that any deal will be reached, so these webcasters probably should be paying the higher royalties (and hoping for a credit against future royalties should there be an agreement reached in the future to reduce these royalties, a successful appeal, or future legislative action reducing the royalties).


Continue Reading It’s July 15th – What’s a Webcaster to Do?

Yesterday, a three judge panel of the US Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. denied the Emergency Motion for a Stay of the Internet Radio Royalty rates set earlier this year by the Copyright Royalty Board.  Our coverage of the stay motion can be found here and here.  Coverage of the entire royalty issue and the surrounding controversy can be found in various posts on our blog, here.  The denial of the stay means that, absent Congressional action or some voluntary agreement of the parties, the new rates will go into effect with payments for the period since the CRB decision being due on Monday, July 16.

The Court’s decision was very brief – in essence three sentences which merely stated that the moving parties had not met the high legal burden necessary for the Court to impose a stay.  A stay is an extraordinary legal action, taken by a Court as part of its equitable powers to insure that justice is carried out.  In order to justify a stay, a party must show the Court that there is a likelihood of success on the merits of the case (in other words, it must prove in a 20 page stay motion the likelihood that it will eventually win its appeal after full briefing and oral argument), plus it must prove that there will be irreparable harm if the stay is not issued (more than simply a loss of money – but harm that cannot be remedied if the appeal is eventually successful).  Weighing those factors, and balancing the competing interests of the parties and the public interest, the Court decides whether or not to issue a Stay.  In this case, as there was no more than the pro forma Order, we do not know what shortcomings the Court perceived in the Motion seeking the Stay, but no reasons are required as the Court can merely decide not to exercise its equitable discretion in a case.


Continue Reading Court Denies Webcaster Stay

With July 15 now less than a month away, the new Internet Radio music royalties are still scheduled to go into effect.  Congressional legislation is slowly being considered, and a Motion for Stay to put the regulations on hold pending appeal has been filed (see our post here).  Some discussions on settlement have also taken place, though no deals have been done.  Without some action, payments under the new rules will soon be due.  See our memo, here, for more details on the CRB decision, and all of our posts on this issue, here.  While the legal and legislative actions are still proceeding, and the clock is counting down, the coverage in the popular media continues to grow.  In two recent discussions of the issue, SoundExchange spokesmen seem to blame Internet Radio for the current woes of the recording industry and to justify the high royalty rates through comparisons to the illegal pirating of copyrighted music.  All of these issues will be discussed at a seminar that I am moderating later this week at the Digital Media Conference in the Washington DC area.

One example of SoundExchange’s recent claims can be found in a series of articles found on the Los Angeles Times website featuring a "Dust-up" exchange of viewpoints on the Internet radio issue,  between Kurt Hanson, owner of Internet radio broadcaster Accuradio and the publisher of the Radio and Internet newsletter, and Jay Rosenthal, a Board member of SoundExchange.  Mr. Rosenthal, in attacking the value of Internet radio as a promotional tool, said that while webcasters might excite people about new music, most new music is now illegally downloaded so that the promotion doesn’t actually help the artists.  But, as Kurt Hanson points out, that would essentially be an excuse for never promoting any music in any venue – in fact it seemingly would be an excuse for shutting down the recording industry.  If music promotion just leads to illegal file sharing sites, and little or no music is ever to be sold again, why bother?  Does the recording industry really expect to make up for lost sales by receiving royalties from Internet radio?  Yet the same point seems to be made by SoundExchange President John Simson in a piece done by the PBS program NOW.  That program focused on the Internet Radio station Radio Paradise and how its popular, eclectic music mix will be silenced if the new royalties go into effect.  In that story, Simson also points to illegal downloading as causing the woes of the music industry, seemingly implying that this justifies outrageous royalties – yet offers nothing to tie downloading to Internet radio.


Continue Reading 30 Days And Counting Down to the New Internet Radio Royalty Rates

In April, the FCC agreed to Consent Decrees calling for fines totaling $12.5 million from four of the country’s largest radio broadcasters in order to settle allegations that these companies had engaged in violations of the FCC’s payola rules. Recently, another public radio company stated in one of its SEC filings that it had received an inquiry