NPR joins appeal of online music royalties

by Seth Sutel, Associated Press

National Public Radio is teaming up with online radio broadcasters to appeal new music royalty fees that they say would put smaller operators out of business and force others to sharply scale back their online music offerings.

NPR filed a notice with the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District on Wednesday signaling that it would challenge the ruling by a panel of copyright judges that will sharply raise the amount of royalties that NPR stations and others have to pay record companies for streaming music over the Internet.

NPR also said it, along with other webcasters, was filing a request with the same court yesterday for an emergency stay blocking the adoption of the new rates, which are set to take effect July 15.

Several NPR member stations, such as KCRW in Los Angeles, have large online audiences for music programming and would have to drastically cut back those offerings under the new royalty rates, NPR says.

In a statement, NPR spokeswoman Andi Sporkin called the decision by the Copyright Royalty Board on May 1 "ill-conceived" and said it would cause "irreparable harm" to member stations by forcing them to cut back on streaming music online.

In addition to NPR, smaller webcasters and a group representing major Internet companies including Yahoo, Time Warner's AOL unit and RealNetworks were expected to join in the motion for a stay.

Separately, a bill seeking to block the new royalties and implement a different payment system is gathering steam in Congress. The Internet Radio Equality Act has 100 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and has also been introduced in the Senate, says Kurt Hanson, who operates a small online radio company called AccuRadio.

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