Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Moment of Silence to Get Your Attention

If you listen to an Internet radio station and haven't been following the controversy surrounding the proposed rate hikes in royalties, you might be in for a surprise. There's a good chance you won't hear anything when you go to your favorite audio stream.

Many Internet radio stations are going silent today. The purpose is to demonstrate what the consequences of the new royalty rates would be. So today, no Pandora.com. No Live365. No Rhapsody, no MTV Online. No online streams from KCRW, KALW, or WAMU, and hundreds of others.

No one's arguing that artists should be paid a royalty for the music used. But when the rates go from a percentage of profits to a per-listener rate that in many cases exceeds the provider's total revenue several times over, something's got to go. And it either the rates, or the stations.

The Sound Exchange which came up with these rates wasn't interested in changing them; the Copyright Royalty Board which accepted their recommendation refused to listen to arguments on appeal. At this point only Congress can affect a change, through H.R. 2060 -- which is still in committee.

July 15 the new rates kick in. The silence this time will last 24 hours. Without action on your part, come July 15 the silence will be permanent.

- Ralph

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