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RIAA engineered the webcast split – former exec

Divide and conquer

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The Recording Industry Association of America engineered the recent split in the webcast community, engaging in what appears to be classic divide-and-rule tactics.

That's what Susan Pickering, the former executive director of the International Webcasting Association says in an interview today. Pickering says the RIAA's approach to IWA attorney David Oxenford, who had been performing pro bono work for the association, was made without the IWA's knowledge. The IWA had been trying to negotiate with the RIAA over the CARP royalty rates without success.

It led to a small, breakaway group of webcasters cutting a deal with the RIAA and replacing a placeholder Webcaster relief bill (HR.5469) with a contentious 28-page alternative tariff at the last moment. This deeply divided the community with a small number of 'casters, joined by consultant Kurt Hanson, advocating the alternative tariff while many others including non-profit and educational broadcasters voiced their strong opposition.

In the end, the measure was killed in the Senate by Sen. Jesse Helms.

But Pickering says she had been trying to negotiate with the IWA on behalf of all its representatives (the association includes vendors such as Apple).

"To my knowledge, there had not been an opportunity for the IWA legislative committee, which includes board members, to meet with the RIAA although members of the IWA had repeatedly asked for that opportunity."

The IWA's legal defense fund remains, as far as we know, untouched.

Twangcast's Mike Hays who was a member of the backroom negotiating team and was privy to the RIAA's tactics, before resigning in disgust shortly before a final agreement was reached, also contributes an wide ranging interview.

"This was not intended to be a legislative deal," says Hays. Attention was still focused on the more wide-ranging Inslee/Boucher bill, the proposed Internet Radio Fairness Act, which proved to be too expansive for the time available.

"The RIAA had no intention of giving anything," he adds. "The judiciary staff basically wrote the Bill [HR.5469] with the RIAA."

When the negotiating team went beyond the single digit royalty for smaller webcasters, Hays walked away.

"The RIAA was given its recoupment money up front - so artists who'd had their music played on the Internet for two, three or four years would never see a dime." The RIAA carved itself $18 million out of royalty money for its collection arm, SoundExchange.

"Once Oxenford was done with the negotiations they went back in and added that language. And nobody saw the Bill language until it was passed!" notes Hays.

"They did at one point say 'no more' - I was on that conference call late on Saturday night. Mr Oxenford was told this is the end - but it was a point beyond which I'd wanted to do"

The Webcaster Alliance also an interview with Ann Gabriel herself. All three interviews are part of a series called "American Injustice", you can find here.

Highly recommended to all RIAA-watchers. ®

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