Recently, the U.S Copyright Royalty Board issued a ruling that dramatically increases the royalties paid to rights holders for streaming music on the Internet. While public broadcasters have been paying negotiated royalties to music publishers/songwriters for some time, this marks the first time, due to increased activity and new technology that we have been asked to pay the “performers” royalties. The board ruling set new rates that are 250% above copyright royalties. Even more ominous is that these royalties by themselves greatly exceed the revenues that the handful of public stations like XPN who are committed to music streaming generate or expect to generate in the near future. These services all are committed to playing artists who do not otherwise get airplay on commercial radio.
Section 118 of the Copyright Act of 1976 specified “a fair return to copyright owners without unfairly burdening public broadcasters.” Clearly this is not the case here. Therefore, Congress will introduce a bill this week addressing both noncommercial and commercial streaming services, the “Internet Radio Equality Act”. This legislation recognizes public radio’s public service mission and will put these royalties under the same system and standards as the royalties we currently pay to the publishers/songwriters. We believe artists should be fairly compensated but under a system that allows the continuing operation and development of the Internet streaming of music that does not get exposure in commercial broadcasting.
Please contact your congressional representatives in the next week and ask them to co-sponsor and support the Internet Radio Equality Act. The future of non-commercial Internet music streaming depends on getting relief from this onerous new burden. We are pursuing this acknowledgement of the special role of public broadcasting in negotiations, through legislation and in the courts.
Thank you and stay tuned.
Roger LaMay, General Manager WXPN