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Webcasters were killing their shoutcast daemons - possibly for the last time - after the US royalty arbitrator yesterday upheld the RIAA's demands for back payments on per-song mechanical copyright and onerous reporting requirements.

The fact that the Library of Congress reduced the royalty demand is almost incidental. Webcasters already pay performance rights to ASCAP, the BMI and SESAC (the European ASCAP) agencies.

Now they have to pay a punitive per-song fee - 0.07 cents per listener* - to the RIAA too, a fee that US radio broadcasters don't have to pay, backdated to November 1998.

"It fucks [the RIAA] too," writes Doc Searls, in the most eloquent summary of the decision we've seen today. "They're trying to extract money from a business that doesn't exist, and denying countless new artists and songs the only place they have access to airplay."

The decision also poisons the market for good - blocking new entrants from entering the business, as the royalty due scales with the number of listeners a webcaster can attract. That leaves the well-capitalized big boys, their noses already stuffed with cocaine and their pockets brimming with other major label payola, sitting pretty.

Although CNN (via Associated Press) and Gartner described this as "a victory" for webcasters, Doc writes:- "Make no mistake. This is a death sentence." CNET reports that "we're closed" notices were already going up, while others were still studying the new proposals.

Any more? Let us know. ®

* And not per thousand listeners. We were off by 1000. Sorry.

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