House Judiciary chairman promises copyright law hearings

Friday, April 26, 2013 - 11:05am

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (pictured) says he'll lead his panel to "conduct a comprehensive review of U.S. copyright law over the coming months," likely (at least partially) in response to Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante's copyright reform (reported in RAIN here). Goodlatte spoke at the World Intellectual Property Day at the Library of Congress.

"The goal of these hearings will be to determine whether the laws are still working in the digital age," Goodlatte said.

Among other issues, "there are concerns about statutory license and damage mechanisms. Federal judges are forced to make decisions using laws that are difficult to apply today. Even the Copyright Office itself faces challenges in meeting the growing needs of its customers - the American public."

Last year Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R), a member of the Judiciary Committee, introduced the Internet Radio Fairness Act (read more in RAIN here). A companion bill was introduced to the Senate by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden (D). The bill calls to change the legal standard by which judges determine the statutory royalty rate for streaming radio. The royalty rates for most other, related uses of copyright sound recordings use the standards set in section 801(b) of the Copyright Act. The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act made an exception for Internet radio, requiring rates to be set to what the judges felt a hypothetical "willing buyer and willing seller" would agree. The law would bring Internet radio in line with media like cable- and satellite radio, requiring rates to be set along 801(b) guidelines.

The bill has yet to be re-introduced to this year's Congress.

Read more in The Verge here.

NAB reportedly focusing on freshmen House members in royalty fight

Monday, March 25, 2013 - 1:15pm

On Friday we addressed the topic of broadcast radio and royalties, and the real possibility that the matter is the top sticking point for Internet radio's efforts to "normalize" what it pays to use copyright sound recordings (see Friday's RAIN here).

Inside Radio says the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is focusing on freshmen House members in its lobby for support of the anti-royalty resolution, the Local Radio Freedom Act ("That Congress should not impose any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge relating to the public performance of sound recordings on a local radio station."). Of 109 House members who've signed on, many are newly elected members.

What's more, apparently Virginia NAB member stations have met with House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (who represents that state, pictured). Any bill on this matter would most likely have to get through Goodlatte's committee (The House Judiciary's subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet held a hearing on the Internet Radio Fairness Act in November that was almost completely taken over by music industry advocates' calls for a broadcast royalty, in RAIN here).

Goodlatte himself says he advocates royalty "fairness" and want to work towards new legislation as a solution to the matter of royalties for broadcast radio. Read more from Inside Radio here.

Stock analyst calls out music industry for its treatment of Pandora

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 12:20pm

Yesterday Albert Fried & Company analyst Rich Tullo appeared on CNBC to discuss the news that record label sales were up last year for the first time since 1999. He used the opportunity to criticize the music industry and its treatment of music services like Pandora -- especially in regards to licensing and royalties.

"The industry is fighting the Pandoras and Spotifys," Tullo told CNBC. Tullo pledged his company "will help (Pandora) in Congress if called upon -- we do have certain beliefs about Internet radio freedom, and how it can be an ultimate good for the industry if the music producers top fighting change."

Pandora and other webcasters support the Internet Radio Fairness Act (more here), designed to make the Internet radio royalties more equitable by bringing the royalty rate determination process in line with those for other non-interactive digital music use (like satellite radio). The recording industry is in staunch opposition to the bill.

Watch video of Tullo's CNBC appearance here.

Small webcasters meeting today with lawmakers on Internet Radio Fairness Act

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 12:25pm

A group representing small business webcasters is in Washington, DC today to visit the offices of 21 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, to advocate support of legislation they say is necessary for their businesses to survive. 

Representatives of independent webcast operations like Prog Palace Radio, WSUI Online, Girls Rock Radio, Pearadio, and Musera travelled to Washington, DC from across the country to request lawmakers' support for the Internet Radio Fairness Act (background in RAIN here).

The IRFA was introduced into both chambers in the last Congress, and expected to be re-introduced this session. It would change the legal standard judges use to determine industry royalties to criteria known as "801(b)," the standard used for other forms of digital radio.

The group also includes Zackary Lewis, CEO of industry streaming and software provider Liquid Compass; Educational Media Foundation (EMF) in-house counsel Brian Gantman, and several independent musicians supporting the efforts of small webcasters.

RAIN publisher and AccuRadio founder Kurt Hanson, also part of today's "hill walk," said, "All we're here asking for is to use the 801(b) standard -- same as cable & satellite (radio) -- and to balance the needs of copyright owners, users, and the public."

We'll cover today's hill walk more extensively tomorrow in RAIN.

More picking sides in webcaster royalty debate

Thursday, November 29, 2012 - 12:45pm

Artists, special interest groups, and industry organizations continue to choose their side of the line regarding Internet radio royalties.

Several conservative organizations have written Capitol Hill in opposition to the Internet Radio Fairness Act, the bill that seeks to bring webcasters' royalties more in line with those of other forms of digital radio. The bill has been slammed by the American Conservative Union, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, Americans for Tax Reform, and Citizens Against Government Waste. CAGW president Thomas Schatz wrote, "While we agree with the basic premise that all [digital radio] services should be treated equally, it should be under market-based standards. It is imperative that Congress protect intellectual property rights, and allow the free-market to work in pricing negotiations."

Read more in the Salt Lake Tribune here and in CNet here.

Meanwhile, the largest federation of unions in the country, the AFL-CIO, has also voiced opposition to the bill.

Yet the group Americans for Limited Government group is supporting the IRFA. The group's president, Bill Wilson, conceded that the bill isn't perfect (here), but that it would indeed help "end unfair, anti-competitive royalty rate discrimination."

Read more in the National Journal here.

The Internet Radio Fairness Coalition (here), meanwhile, welcomed eight new members for its effort to gain support for the IRFA: Triton Digital, Senzari, HD103.com, TruLocal Media, Musera Radio, Digital Sound & Video, Pearadio, and Mark Ramsey Media. [RAIN publisher Kurt Hanson is also CEO of webcaster AccuRadio, a member of the IRFC, and he's spoken on the group's behalf.] 

Finally, at least one artist is speaking out for webcasters. While 125 recording stars signed on to an open letter advertisement panning Pandora and its efforts, (here), Patrick Laird (a member of the band Break of Reality) wrote in an op-ed in The Hill: "It is clear that the effectiveness of internet radio with regard to both product sales and promotional power is overwhelming, and the success and expansion of these companies are of the utmost importance for the future of our group. Internet radio creates an unparalleled opportunity for us to reach millions of people who otherwise might not discover music like ours."

Read Laird's full essay here.

Could AM/FM's royalty exemption doom webcasting's hope for relief?

Thursday, November 29, 2012 - 12:40pm

It was clear that many members of the House Judiciary subcommittee weren't interested in hearing about Internet radio's problems during yesterday's hearing (see our coverage here).

[SomaFM's Rusty Hodge has posted audio of the meeting online here. We should also point out that Tom Taylor has excellent and extensive coverage of the hearing in his Tom Taylor Now newsletter here, as does Inside Radio here.]

The meeting was to discuss the Internet Radio Fairness Act legislation intended to bring relief to an industry whose most successful representative remains unprofitable and paying more than 50% of its revenue in music rights. But music industry witnesses and their allies on the subcommittee deftly turned the spotlight elsewhere: the fact that broadcast radio does not have to pay royalties for sound recordings it plays on the air.

The maneuver perhaps revealed just how difficult it will be for IRFA-backers to gain any ground while the "radio royalty" issue remains unresolved in the eyes of the record industry.

In recapping yesterday's House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the Internet Radio Fairness Act, ArsTechnica concluded:

"Overall, to say Pandora's battle appears to be an uphill one would be a serious understatement. Its main ally is the terrestrial radio industry, which has become a 'bad guy' to many in Congress. And the list of opponents is growing to include not just the entertainment industry but also unions and interest groups, both liberal and conservative... the AFL-CIO, the NAACP, Americans for Tax Reform, and the American Conservative Union all opposed the bill...

"In the meantime, the Internet radio industry—which essentially consists of just one large player—will continue to be a losing bet."

Read Ars Technica's recap (also the source of the boom box photo) here.

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