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Friday, June 29, 2007

RIAA flexibility?

In the appeal of the CRB's decision, the parties have now filed their papers concerning whether the decision should be "stayed" while the appeal goes on. (Recall that if the court grants a stay, the present system would remain in place during the appeal; if they deny the stay the rates set out by the CRB's decision would come into effect on July 15 even as those rates are being appealed.)

Among other things, the CRB's ruling would impose a $500 minimum annual fee per channel. This would be a heavy burden to internet radio stations that offer multiple channels, and many of those stations have pointed to this provision as particularly damaging. It now appears that RIAA may be signalling some flexibility on this point in their court filing opposing the stay.

SoundExchange opposed the stay, because RIAA wants the new rates to come into effect immediately. But SoundExchange's opposition also said that should the court grant a stay:

...any stay should be limited to the minimum fee provision and should allow pre-existing minimum fee requirements ($500 per channel, capped at $2500 per licensee) to remain in place pending appeal.

This could be very important. It shows that RIAA is afraid of the Internet Radio Equality Act, and it may be a signal that RIAA is willing to be flexible.
While this is encouraging news, it would be far better if the court granted a stay of the entire CRB ruling.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Department of Justice Opposes Stay

On Monday, the Department of Justice filed papers opposing the stay that DiMA (and others) sought in the DC Circuit. Why is the Department of Justice getting involved in this case?

First a quick recap. As we’ve noted earlier, the decision of the Copyright Royalty Board has been appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Several parties have indicated that they will appeal, but the process will be a slow one. In the meantime, they have asked the DC Circuit to “stay” the CRB’s ruling while the appeal goes on. This would preserve the status quo: internet radio stations would continue to pay the same royalties during the appeal.

The Department of Justice represents the various agencies of the federal government in court. In this case, the Feds are acting as lawyers for the CRB, defending the CRB’s decision. The DOJ will not be the only people to oppose a stay. We can probably expect SoundExchange, an arm of RIAA, to file papers opposing it as well.

The court will probably act relatively quickly. As of today, July 15 is only three and a half weeks away...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

July 15th, an Important Moment For American Broadcasters

On July 15, absent a stay by the appellate courts, the new license rates for internet radio stations come into effect. As I’ve noted before (see my post “Jesse And Me”) – we’re headed down a path of pushing American broadcasters overseas. Where has the value of free speech gone? At BroadClip we're confident that our business won't be much affected by the new rates, but like everyone else we think that the variety of internet radio is worth protecting, and we feel that our government should not be taking a stand against the small operators who are responsible for so much of its vitality.

Several parties have filed notices that they will appeal the Copyright Royalty Board's decision to the Federal Circuit, and DiMA has sought a stay of the new rates, but as of now the Federal Circuit has not made any decision about the stay. In Congress, while the Internet Radio Equality Act now has 119 co-sponsors in the House, and three Senators have signed on. Congress has moved quickly (for Congress!), but time is running out.

Therefore, we are joining with other internet radio focused businesses to call attention to this issue by participating in the Day of Silence on June 26th. New users can sign up for an account, but we will not be recording any songs on that date. We do not want to take this step, but we feel that this issue is important enough that we must participate.

Thank you for your understanding, and remember to keep contacting your Senators and your Representative in the House to keep internet music alive!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

More CRB Appeals

Apparently the National Association of Broadcasters has also filed an appeal of the Copyright Royalty Board's decision. This brings us to at least three appeals, including the DiMA/NPR one and the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System.

I should be more accurate. The full substantive appeals have actually not yet been filed. The parties have filed a document indicating that they will file an appeal. The Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit will come up with a briefing schedule. At the same time, as I mentioned last week, they will come up with a schedule about filing the motions related to the request for a stay, which was filed by DiMA and NPR.

Friday, June 1, 2007

CRB Decision Appealed

On May 30, the Digital Media Association (DiMA) and NPR appealed the Copyright Royalty Board’s decision to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. These are not the only parties to appeal the CRB’s decision--the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System filed its appeal earlier this month. DiMA and NPR also filed an additional motion yesterday requesting that the court issue a “stay” while the CRB decision is under appeal.

What does this all mean?

The appeals are what they sound like. They are asking the DC Circuit to reverse the decision of the CRB.

A “stay” is a legal concept. A court issues a stay to preserve the status quo. In this case, DiMA and NPR are asking the court to keep the present royalty system in effect while the court decides the appeal. If the court refuses to issue a stay, the new CRB imposed royalty rates will take effect on July 15, even though they would be under appeal.

So the court has two decisions. In the next few weeks, it will have to decide whether to issue the stay. Then, over the next several months, it will decide the actual appeal of the CRB’s decision. It is impossible to predict what the court will do, but we’ll keep you informed.

Note that this is entirely separate from ongoing efforts to reverse the CRB’s decision in Congress. Congress has the power to set the rates and overrule the CRB and make the appeal to the DC Circuit unnecessary. While the DC Circuit mulls over the appeal, Congress will hopefully step up to the plate and pass the Internet Radio Equality Act. Keep contacting your Senators and your Representative to encourage them to vote in favor of the Internet Radio Equality Act.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Internet Radio has Senate Support

We have been touting the Internet Radio Equality Act (H.R. 2060), introduced on April 26th in the House of Representatives. This Act, which now has dozens almost over one hundred co-sponsors, would reverse the decision of the Copyright Royalty Board and impose a mandatory license fee of 7.5% of revenues for internet radio stations.

On May 10, Senators Ron Wyden (D. Or.) and Sam Brownback (R. Kan.) co-sponsored a companion bill in the Senate, S.1353. This is encouraging news. We hope that this bill attracts the same kind of bipartisan support in the Senate as has been shown in the House.

It is important that you contact your Senators to tell them how important it is to support this bill. In addition, if your Representative has not yet supported this bill, please contact him or her as well.