Microsoft man seeks US Net Radio reprieve

Bid to save microcasters

A bill to protect grassroots Internet radio has been offered before Congress.

The Internet Radio Fairness Act would exempt webcasters with less than $6 million in annual revenues from the additional RIAA royalty and from future royalty requirements.

The webcasters already pay performance fees to ASCAP, the BMI and the European equivalent, but the RIAA has sought to impose an additional burden backdated to 1998, - not imposed on US radio stations and onerous reporting requirements - and a sympathetic Library of Congress ruling in June obliged many smaller Netcasters close down.

The IRFA also seeks fundamental changes to the Library of Congress' royalty process, CARP. Future CARPs should not be based on the willing-buyer/willing-seller principle used in the June determination, but should revert to the traditional Copyright basis used since 1976. And future decisions should also consider the impact of those decisions on smaller enterprises.

The bill is proposed by Microsoft's man in Congress, former Seattle-based attorney Jay Inslee (D), a tireless defender of the company. George Nethercutt (R-WA), and Rick Boucher (D-VA) also backed the bill.

Rick Boucher has his own modest plan to thwart one pigopolist parry: which we discussed here.

The two bills represent a hugely significant step for the industry: crossing a divide that the Californian technology elite has to date been loathe to face. Unlike geek activists in the rest of the world, the West Coast elite, wedded to the romantic argument that "Cyberspace" is ungovernable, has let the pigopolists do the governing: passing atrocities such as the DMCA.

Fixing stuff needn't be difficult: if your hands aren't on the levers of powers, then as sure as eggs is eggs, some one else's will be. And the pigopolists have until now, had it very easy indeed. ®

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