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Posted on May 22, 2007

(Page 2)

Scheer: I want to actually just read something.  I’m kind of impressed by Sen. [Ron] Wyden from Oregon, his comment on this.  “Our bill was about standing up for folks ranging from a small webcaster in a basement in Corvallis to an innovative start-up in Beaverton, to a band trying to be heard in Portland, to a huge music band in Coos Bay.”  Those are all Oregon cities; I’m sure he’s speaking to his base.  “Keeping Internet. ... ”  And this is, again, his speech.  “Keeping Internet radio alive is part of the broader issue that is important to me: keeping the e-commerce engine running by preventing discrimination against it.” 

So his basic premise is that this is actually good for business.

Wellings: Exactly.

Scheer: That artists get played more, and maybe the smaller artists.  Do you agree with that?

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Wellings: Yes.  This is good for music in general because if you don’t see Congress act and reset these rates, and if the ruling sticks with the Copyright Royalty Board, you’re going to see less diversity in music online.  Many of these smaller webcasters who play international songs or classical songs or underground hip-hop, or a variety of things, are not going to be there to play them.  And the larger, sort of massive webcasters, they are going to—instead of having some streams that are playing those diverse music channels, they are actually going to have to be playing the same old pop hits, and nobody wants that.  And I think in the end it’s going to be much better if we actually get this corrected.  Satellite companies pay—I think it’s around 7 or 8 percent—of their revenue to the artists and performers to compensate them, and this, Sen. Wyden’s bill, would adjust the Internet radio royalty rates so that they would also be paying the same as satellite.  So making it a little more ... parallel with them and more balance in the industry.  Unfortunately, terrestrial broadcasters should be paying as well.  They really should be compensating the performers, and it would be nice if something were done about that.

Scheer: Again, it seems a bit foolhardy because Internet, you guys are willing to pay, satellite’s already paying, right?  And terrestrial radio is not.  So the Royalty Copyright Board—I understand their purpose, I feel for these artists who don’t make any money and people just take their stuff.  But you guys are willing to pay, I mean the Internet’s willing to pay, satellite is and terrestrial’s not.  It seems almost unfair and seems like they put their attention to the wrong industry, right? 

Wellings: Hmm.  Exactly.  I think that’s exactly the case.  So now we’ve got these, we’ve got two bills, we’ve got Sen. Wyden and Sen. [Sam] Brownback, who have introduced their bill, and in the House we’ve got Congressman Jay Inslee and Congressman [Don] Manzullo, who have introduced their bill as well.  They introduced in April.  The deadline is really sort of July 15th right now, when the webcasters are going to have to start paying these fees backed up through 2006, and so we’re really hoping to get a good congressional push before July 15th.

Scheer: If I’m angry and I want to do something about it.  If you have a phone number, I always recommend not yelling and screaming because you don’t want to shoot the messenger, but do you recommend—because I have their address—do you recommend sending them letters to the Copyright Board?  Do you recommend any certain action that we can take as people who obviously like to listen to music?

Wellings: Unfortunately, the Copyright Royalty Board is not listening to anybody.  After their decision came out on March 2nd there was a massive outcry.  A lot of these webcasters had things on their websites and said things on their screens and actually tried to get people contacting the Copyright Royalty Board.  We sent in thousands of petition signatures from Free Press and they just said, “We’re not rehearing this case.  We will listen, to see if there are additional arguments, to people who have filed already, but we’re really not interested in retrying this.”  So now the question is whether SoundExchange, that group that was set up by the RIAA, whether they can be pressured, since the deals could be cut through them.  But I think in the end we just need, we really need congressional pressure on this industry to ensure that these rates are fair and reasonable.  So I would say, for anybody listening, that they should be contacting their member of Congress, that that’s probably the best way to go at this point, and just telling them that they support the Wyden and Brownback bill on Internet radio equality [the proposed Internet Radio Equality Act] and the Inslee and Manzullo bill in the House.

  Scheer: Can the Supreme Court or somebody like that get involved, or is this an issue of kind of like Soviet court where they have, like, three judges that we don’t really know who they are and they just get to make a ruling?  Congress gets to do something, but does the court have a say in this? ...  I know there’s no Fairness Doctrine anymore, but at least, you look at it from the point of view of terrestrial radio pays nothing and Internet pays everything, right?

Wellings: Hmm.  Yes.

Scheer: So it can go to the Supreme Court?

Wellings: There’s nothing in relation to, that terrestrial broadcast radio pays nothing, unfortunately.  But NPR and others are appealing this decision in court, and the status of that. ...  I don’t know the status of that currently, but I think they are looking more to Congress than to the court in order to fix this.

Scheer: I’m glad it’s not Russia and this isn’t just some kind of shady deal.

Wellings: [Chuckles.]

Scheer: I’m glad this is at least America so we have the courts.

Harris: Well, you let Vladimir Putin tell it, this is a lot like Russia, or Nazi Germany.  My question, to bring some closure to this—and not to diminish the work that Frannie Wellings, whom we are on the phone with, the associate policy director at Free Press.  Not to diminish any of the work that you’re doing, but do you think this is the beginning of regulation of the Internet across the board?  In five years, are we looking at the same Internet or a very government-protected Web? 

Wellings: I actually don’t, because there was a Small Webcasters Act a few years ago, and we actually had to do the same thing to try to protect the fees that small webcasters and noncommercial webcasters paid, to keep them lower and make sure that it was fair.  So I think there is—there has always been light regulation of the Internet.  And when it comes to free-speech issues is when it gets questionable, right?  But I think that when you get to issues like this, when you get to an issue like network neutrality, you know, making sure there’s nondiscrimination of all the applications on the Internet, those type of things are sort of light touches of regulation that sort of have to be there to ensure that the Internet is run properly and that people who have more power can’t keep out those who have less. 

Scheer: I just want to say one thing about Sen. Brownback.  I think it’s impressive that—you know, he’s running for president—that he would come out and say this.  He did make a statement.  I know I read the Wyden statement, but his statement was also good.  This is a bipartisan issue; this is not some issue that Democrats or Republicans or Greens can just say, oh, just reject it.  I think Brownback also made a good point when he said he was alarmed by this.  He likes Internet radio.  We all like Internet radio.  So I’m glad you got to come in here and tell us more about Internet radio and why we should save it. 

Wellings: I hope that everybody gets involved and contacts their member of Congress and supports these bills so that we can actually ensure that Internet radio can actually continue to function as a really good diverse alternative to terrestrial radio…

  Harris: We will certainly do our part.  Frannie Wellings, thank you for dropping by and spending the time with us.  For Josh Scheer, for Frannie Wellings, associate policy director at Free Press, this is James Harris, and this is Truthdig.


New and Improved Comments

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By JimmyJackFunk21, June 1, 2007 at 2:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I use Mercora’s offerings, and this all makes me nervous. I really hope what the RIAA does not go through, but even if it does, it’ll be alright. Mercora has the “M” app, which lets me get my music wirelessly through my smartphone. So I’ll be fine…

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By Jacob, May 31, 2007 at 11:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The music industry has been ripping off the people for a long time.How much is enough? Greed is thier main ingriedient.It cost around 2 cents to make a cd and its sold for twenty bucks or more? Am i correct over and over and over again. Thats where it should end. This whole situation would go away if the people would just wise up and say you know what i dont need to have this music and not buy it. if everyone did that and there was no money being exchanged the industry would either change and stop ripping off the public or go belly up which maybe they should anyway.i guess evertime someone reads a book in school or in the library a fee should be paid. Or maybe everytime i use the dishwasher i should pay a royalty fee. Just stop the arguing and greed dont buy the media dont turn on fm radio and see how that works. One more tidbit i wont be replacing any music i have with the next “new media” either. Yea pay you all again for the media i cant use because you changed again thats not going to happen anymore, What a racket.

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By JKoch, May 30, 2007 at 10:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A new broadcasting medium is fine, but not if it mainly plays artist “hits” and skirts the royalties.  It would be wonderful if the Internet radio stations promoted, with permission, work of people without access to the big studios or networks.

YouTube and similar sites are also blighted by material “ripped” from commercial sources.  Small clips incorporated with source acknowledgment into a substantially unique or original result might comply with public use standards, but some things are flat-out copies with no acknowledgement or permission.

Discount royalty standards for small Web broadcasters might be fine, but not if the station format is a mirror of the network “hits,” which would only fuel illicit digital copying of copywrited work.  Any site that plays mainly hits and whose visits soar above a certain threshold would have to pay royalties on par with the big guys.

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By danny, May 27, 2007 at 9:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Umm, ASCAP and BMI collect performance royalties on television and radio performance of music and pay the copyright owners.  It doesn’t work out great for the small guy, but your guest is wrong.

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By tone-wreck, May 25, 2007 at 10:44 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Promotion is great (as an excuse).

Free radio (or almost free) so you can promote your music.

Concert that hardly pay at all ( or even cost you money through tour support) so you can promote your songs.

Get your music on a TV show for next to nothing so it will promote your music.

Put your tunes on compilations for peanuts, it will good for promotion.(I have had offers from majors in the tens of dollars!!!)LOL to their face.

Free copies to DJs so they can promoye your stuff ( they get paid a bundle though).

Free downloads actually help you promote your music too!

By the time you have done all this promotion for nothing there is no were left to go!

Brilliant!

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By Kity, May 24, 2007 at 6:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I have wanted one of these forever! THANKS for the great work

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By doctordawg, May 24, 2007 at 2:21 am Link to this comment

Radio music is not nor has it been “free” all these years.  Radio stations sell advertising by attracting listeners by playing music, then pay the songwriters and performers through AFTRA, AFM, ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, etc.  Even restaurants, bars, sports facilities and dentist offices pay royalties to play music, rightly so, as it enhances their value to their customers.

“There isn’t any clear way of tracking what songs have been played, by which artists, and ensuring that that fee has gone to the actual artists.”

This isn’t exactly true, as SoundExchange.com can track internet plays from legitimate licensees very accurately.  BTW, SoundExchange pays directly to the musicians, bands and songwriters if they are the legitimate copyright holders, bypassing those big evil corporations.

Musicians gotta eat.  Songwriters gotta eat.  Please stop thinking of “music” as something separate from those who create it.  We love you, the listeners, but, man, we gotta eat.

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By Josh, May 23, 2007 at 10:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I can understand protecting intellectual property, but they need to think about this.  Quashing internet radio will only serve to shoot them in the foot by eliminating a major promotional medium.  When I listen to internet radio, I hear songs that I want to own, songs that I had long since forgotten about and I buy the MP3.  Isn’t that why radio over the airwaves has had “free” music for nearly a century?  As a promotional vehicle to sell albums?  They’re taking the “batten down the hatches” approach a little far and they’re going to choke themselves in the process.

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By doctordawg, May 23, 2007 at 9:34 pm Link to this comment

Guys, guys, you’re killing me.  Why does everyone think musicians don’t mind having their stuff stolen?  Magazine writers would scream bloody murder if someone scanned and republished their stuff free on the internet.  Sure, those internet radio stations “need” cheap/free content.  Hey, I could run an unbelievably successful and affordable grocery store if only I could steal the store inventory first.  I could sell steaks for pennies and still make a profit!

What you are advocating here is the same as if I registered truthdigg.com, just gleaned all YOUR content through a parsing script, put MY ad links on it, and enjoyed the free ride at your expense.  I’d be streaming YOUR content alongside MY adlinks without compensating you.  How fair would that be?

This would NOT be “good for the music,” as if “the music” is a self-generating entity.  This is like saying we should be able to bootleg Stephen King or Nora Roberts books for cheap or free on the internet because it would be “good for the story.”

Please, guys, you’re killing me, and thousands like me, who either make a living writing and recording the songs you love, or we give up and sell shoes.

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By namvet67, May 22, 2007 at 9:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Big media, because it is now a part of the military-industrial complex is allowed to do what ever it pleases. And of course it pleases to make more money. Big media wants and needs audiences to sustain itself. They can influence market size, and content, in many ways once they are free to “do business” as they see fit. They will find a way to bring internet radio into their domain and rape it for all it’s worth. It’s what they do now in the United States of Everything.
Hoa binh

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