Students Rally to Rescue Net Radio from Crippling Copyright Royalties

Media Contacts
Brad Ashwell

Florida PIRG

TALLAHASSEE — Today Students urged Congress to repeal stringent copyright royalty rates that could force Internet radio stations out of business and reduce opportunities for diverse musicians to promote their music, in a petition delivered by a coalition of media public interest groups the Florida Public Interest Research Group (Florida PIRG) and SaveNetRadio.

The student petition called on Congress to support the bi-partisan “Internet Radio Equality Act” (HR 2060) introduced by Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Don Manzullo (R-Ill.)

HR 2060 would:

• Reverse the decision of the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) to increase royalty rates,

• Encourage Internet business,

• Provide independent musicians with a platform, and

• Save Internet radio stations (“webcasters”) from an excessive CRB increase – as high as 1,200 percent – in royalties every time they play a song.

 The “Internet Radio Equality Act” currently has 124 bipartisan co-sponsors. “The Internet Radio Equality Act compensates rights holders but also encourages growth in Internet Radio and the greater media marketplace,” said Florida PIRG legislative advocate, Brad Ashwell. “The Copyright Royalty Board rates are a clear example of unfair and shortsighted regulation. These new rates will destroy this young and innovative industry if they are allowed to take effect,” added Ashwell.

There are an estimated 72 million net radio listeners that support college and other independent stations streaming over the Internet as well as the airwaves along with new and innovative Internet-only outlets. In the wake of massive consolidation of ownership of over-the-air radio, Internet Radio has stood alone as an outlet for diverse and independent musicians playing in formats from jazz and freeform to bluegrass and classical music that have been squeezed off the traditional radio dial.

“Internet radio offers an unprecedented and unparalleled level of accessibility and diversity to music lovers of every age, from every walk of life, in every region of the country,” said SaveNetRadio coalition spokesperson, Jake Ward. In less than one week, unless sanity prevails in either the courts or the Congress, webcasters of all sizes will be forced to shut down.

The rate increase, scheduled to take effect July 15th, would increase rates between 300 and 1200 percent. The action could bankrupt Internet radio stations like Pandora, Live365, Rhapsody, MTV radio, and hundreds of smaller, regional, and local stations. Internet radio industry representatives estimate the new fees will cost companies $1 billion- a gigantic leap from the $200 million paid last year, noted Ashwell.

“Students and young people have always supported independent musicians playing a variety of formats,” added PIRG student volunteer Lauren Linville, “The Internet should make it easier for independent musicians to compete with big radio and big media, not harder.” “The public clearly supports the bill and Internet radio – it’s time for Congress to respond and save Internet Radio,” Ashwell concluded.