by Dan Bolles
Fans of internet radio were likely already aware that today, June 26, is a national day of silence for web-cast radio stations in protest of a proposed rate hike in royalty fees. More casual listeners, like myself, were probably shocked to find that their favorite stations were off the air for the day. In addition to smaller outlets, heavy hitters like Rhapsody.com, MTV and Yahoo! pulled the plug on their web-casts for the day. Nothing brings folks together like the almighty dollar, eh?
On March 2, 2007, the Copyright Royalties Board — a three member panel which oversees royalty fees for Internet radio stations — passed a rate increase of 300 to 1200 percent by 2010. The increase goes into effect on July 15, 2007 and is retroactive to January 1, 2006. Prior to the rate hike, internet stations were already paying more than twice what satellite radio stations are required to cough up for the same rights. So what gives?
The proposal was initiated by the Recording Industry Association of America, a monolithic organization primarily made up of fat guys in suits who live in constant fear of teenagers downloading the latest Jay-Z track from Limewire. RIAA's hired goons, SoundExchange — who handle royalty collections — were also in on the fun. Oddly enough, these are the same schmucks that were afraid of cassette tapes destroying the record biz some 25 years ago. Good call, assholes.
If the increase goes into effect, a significant chunk of small to mid-size stations — many of whom are already on life support — will cease to exist. For those of us that enjoy the eclectic, free-form nature of 'net radio, that's a big freakin' deal.
So what can we, the concerned public, do?
Go to Save Net Radio and click on the link to contact your state's congressional delegates. There are bills in both houses to overturn CRB's nefarious, greed-driven ruling. There are also several links providing much more info than I have time or space to print here.
If you love freedom, America and weird-ass radio, do your part and let your voice be heard.
On a lighter note, here's a picture of a puppy: