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Oz labels lose case against radio stations

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Musicians and record labels will probably be joining the queue behind sports codes and mobile carriers to demand more rights-holder-friendly copyright laws, after losing an internet radio case in the Federal Court yesterday.

Justice Lindsay Foster has ruled that a radio station need only pay once for the right to broadcast a piece of music, even if it simulcasts the piece to an Internet stream. The Phonographic Performance Company of Australia, which manages fees on behalf of performers and labels, had asked the court to rule that separate rights payments were required for ‘net simulcasts.

The PPCA case was launched in February 2010.

Justice Foster decided that a radio station incurs its liability to the PPCA “at the platter”, so to speak, rather than for its use of a particular broadcast medium. The Sydney Morning Herald reports Justice Foster as saying: “the service is but one service being a service which combines various delivery methods or platforms and which delivers the same radio program using the broadcasting services band.”

Rights-holders have found themselves unhappy with the workings of the Federal Court in recent times.

Earlier this month, the court ruled that Optus’ TV Now service is legal, even though it allows users to record and replay sports fixtures in close enough to real time to compete with Telstra’s $AU153-million exclusive mobile rights over the same content.

Rather than beat Australia’s slow-moving television ratings gatherers over the head until they learn that a viewer using a mobile phone still counts as a viewer, thus demonstrating that all mobile services count as an expanded audience that should be counted, Telstra and the codes have now taken the case to the High Court.

They also appear to have sympathetic ears in Canberra, with the various cabinet members apparently willing to consider leapfrogging the outcome of the appeal with legislation. ®

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