Sounds of silence: Internet radio hangs on

[Seattle Times editorial]

Listeners can continue to ride the stimulating stream of Internet radio — at least for now.

Negotiations between SoundExchange, the organization that collects and distributes music royalties, and assorted groups representing Internet radio stations have postponed the ruin of the innovative medium. The last-minute negotiations happened after the public uproar about the Copyright Royalty Board's new payment system for Internet radio stations, which kind of took effect Sunday.

CRB's system would have had Internet radio stations paying more for every song played. The increased rate, already a burden for small operations, became crippling when the CRB required that the payment for each song played would also be multiplied by the number of people listening.

Any new agreement, which would have to be approved by CRB, must take into account the slim budgets of independent radio, and also recognize that Internet radio is a developing media area. It needs to be nurtured, not hammered into submission by the media conglomerates that control the music industry.

Internet radio stations such as SomaFM and Seattle's KEXP are not in the clear, despite the recent dialogue. SoundExchange has not said it will not collect from independent Webcasters under the CRB rules. What SoundExchange did say was that the stations in negotiations will not have to pay the new rate as long as the former royalties rates are paid.

That means Webcasters need to quickly negotiate an agreement that does not bleed Internet radio to death while still being fair to musicians. Congress must step in if an agreement cannot be reached and support a bill co-sponsored by Rep. Jay Inslee, D- Bainbridge Island, that would help Internet radio.

If a new agreement or new legislation is not forthcoming, Internet radio has a quiet future.

article originally published at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/editorialsopinion/2003795207_inteed19.html.

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