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Congress may loosen noose on internet radio

Bill seeks to reverse Copyright Royalty Board decision

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A bill introduced in Congress today could nullify the new rates set by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) which advocates say would put webcasters out of business.

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Rep. Don Manzullo (R-IL) have headed the "Internet Radio Equality Act," which aims to stop the controversial March 2 decision which puts royalty of a .08 cent per song per listener, retroactively from 2006 to 2010 on internet radio.

Advocates have dreaded the CRB ruling, which they say could raise rates between 300 to 1200 per cent for webcasters. Earlier this month, the CRB threw out an appeal by commercial webcasters, National Public Radio and others to review the new rates and postpone a May 15 deadline for the introduction of the royalty schedule.

If passed, today's bill would set new rates at 7.5 per cent of the webcaster's revenue— the same rate paid by satellite radio. Alternatively, webcasters could decide to pay 33 cents per hour of sound recordings transmitted to a single user.

"The illogical and unrealistic royalty rates set by the CRB have placed the future of an entire industry in jeopardy," said Jake Ward of the SaveNetRadio coalition. "This bill is a critical step to preserve this vibrant and growing medium, and to develop a truly level playing field where webcasters can compete with satellite radio."

The bill would also reset royalty rules for non-profit radio such as NPR. Public radio would be required present a report to Congress on how it should determine rates for their internet streaming media. ®

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