With 2008 almost upon us, webcasters streaming music on the Internet need to remember that the way of computing and paying royalties to SoundExchange will shift on January 1- a change that may be especially important for broadcast stations.  Under the Copyright Royalty Board decision reached last March, webcasters must pay royalties computed on a per "performance" basis.  A performance is a per song, per listener computation.  In other words, if an Internet radio station plays a song and 15 listeners are logged into the station at the time that the song plays, there would be 15 performances on which the royalty would need to be paid.  While broadcasters objected that they did not (and in many cases could not) track the number of performances that were made by their stations on the Internet, the CRB, on reconsideration of their initial decision, only went so far as the give stations an interim rate based on the number of  "Aggregate tuning hours" that a station served (e.g. one listener listening for one hour, or two for a half hour each would both be the equivalent of one aggregate tuning hour).   See our post, here, on the CRB’s reconsideration decision.  The aggregate tuning hour (or ATH) metric is one that is more readily obtain from a content delivery network or other bandwidth provider, and a metric that has been used since the first royalties were established in 2002.  Yet as of January 1, as the interim ATH rate applied only to 2006 and 2007, that method of payment will no longer be available, and many webcasters are wondering what to do to compute the per performance royalty.

Neither the CRB decision nor SoundExchange, which collects the royalties, explained what a webcaster who cannot count performances is to do when the option to pay based on aggregate tuning hours disappears.   The royalty for January performances is due to be paid to SoundExchange on March 16 (45 days after the end of the month), and a webcaster preparing to file its royalty statement on that day will need to have a performance count to include on its statement.  Many Internet radio companies have been trying to determine how to count performances and, while there are some services that offer to provide software to do so, it is my understanding that none are foolproof and, in some cases, they may not be able to get a complete count of performances.  And many smaller stations may not be able to afford such systems.

Continue Reading Internet Radio Reminder – No More Aggregate Tuning Hour Royalty After January 1

The US Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia has set the briefing dates on the appeal filed by various webcasting groups seeking review of the decision of the Copyright Royalty Board setting Internet radio royalties for the period 2006-2010 for the use of sound recordings (see our coverage of this controversy here, and

Yesterday, SoundExchange sent to many small webcasters an agreement that would allow many to continue to operate under the terms of the Small Webcaster Settlement Act as crafted back in 2002, with modifications that would limit the size of the audience that would be covered by the percentage of revenue royalties that a small webcaster would pay. A press release from SoundExchange about the offer can be found on their website by clicking on the "News" tab.  This is a unilateral offer by SoundExchange, and does not reflect an agreement with the Small Commercial Webcasters (the “SCWs”) who participated in the Copyright Royalty Board proceeding to set the rates for 2006-2010 and who are currently appealing the CRB decision to the US Court of Appeals (see our notes on the appeal, here). The SoundExchange offer, while it may suffice for some small operators who do not expect their businesses to grow beyond the limits set out in the SWSA (and who only play music from SoundExchange artists – see the limitations described below), still does not address many of the major issues that the SCWs raised when SoundExchange first made a similar proposal in May, and should not be viewed by Congress or the public as a resolution of the controversy over the webcasting royalties set out by the CRB decision (see our summary of the CRB decision here).

The proposal of SoundExchange simply turns their offer made in May, summarized here, into a formal proposal.  It does not address the criticisms leveled against the offer when first made in May, that the monetary limits on a small webcaster do not permit small webcasters to grow their businesses – artificially condemning them to be forever small, at best minimally profitable operations, in essence little more than hobbies. The provisions of the Small Webcasters Settlement Act were appropriate in 2002 when they were adopted to cover streaming for the period from 1998 through 2005, as the small webcasters were just beginning to grow their businesses in a period when streaming technologies were still new to the public and when these companies were still exploring ways to make money from their operations. Now that the public has begun to use streaming technologies on a regular basis, these companies are looking to grow their businesses into real businesses that can be competitive in the vastly expanding media marketplace. The rates and terms proposed by SoundExchange simply do not permit that to occur. 

Continue Reading Another Offer From SoundExchange – Still Not a Solution