SoundExchange "settlement" offers lower royalty option for micro-webcasters

David Oxenford, Broadcast Law Blog

[RTM note: this article was originally published on 28 March 2009. We repost it here in response to questions about the recent settlement between SoundExchange and "pure-play" webcasters, which establishes a $25,000 minimum payment for webcasters. The microcaster settlement described below provides lower rates for very small web stations - $600 per year for the smallest stations with no recordkeeping, or a $2000 a year minimum for stations with a larger listenership but revenues less than $50,000.]

With all the recent discussion of the NAB-SoundExchange settlement and the recent Court of Appeals argument on Copyright Royalty Board decision on Internet Radio royalties, we have not summarized the "settlement" that SoundExchange agreed to with a few very small webcasters. That agreement would essentially extend through 2015 the terms that SoundExchange unilaterally offered to small webcasters in 2007, and make these terms a "statutory" rate that would be binding on all copyright holders.

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SoundExchange cuts deal on webcasting rates

John Timmer, Ars Technica

The long, strange saga surrounding webcaster royalty payments is (mercifully) over after a multiyear fight.

Back in 2007, the US government's Copyright Royalty Board set royalty rates for the online streaming of music that many in the business felt were unrealistically high for a nascent market, leading at least one prominent streaming service, Pandora, to threaten to pull the plug. Negotiations over an alternate pricing scheme broke down earlier this year, leaving things looking grim. With a slight nudge, however, the parties returned to the table and today announced an agreement that provides webcasters with a new royalty structure.

The fact that negotiations were even happening took Congressional action. In 2008, Congress passed the Webcaster Settlement Act [sponsored by Rep. Jay Inslee, D-WA], which gave the webcasters roughly a year to come to terms with SoundExchange, the entity that collects royalties on behalf of the rightsholders. But the deadline set in that act expired earlier this year, an event that triggered the breakdown of the negotiations.

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Publicly owned broadband is the right idea

Christopher Mitchell, Charleston Gazette

Just as railroads and highways were the essential infrastructure for development in the 19th and 20th centuries, broadband networks will be essential for 21st-century competitive economies. Small cities and even isolated, rural communities that have strong educational systems and human talent will be able to compete in the new global information economy.

West Virginia's beautiful mountains and valleys, coupled with low density make most of the state an unattractive investment for private phone and cable companies. Fortunately, no community has to be left behind, each can seize the future with smart public investments.

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Community broadband and digital justice for Seattle

Seattle Digital Justice Campaign

A recent study found that the US has fallen to 20th place internationally in household broadband use. Many suburban and rural communities have limited or no access to affordable, high-speed Internet. Even in tech-savvy US cities (including Seattle), local residents pay too much for too little speed and bandwidth, our consumer "choice" for broadband services limited to choosing between the phone company and the cable company.

Thanks to broadband stimulus funds in the Recovery Act passed this spring, rural and urban communities across the US will soon be able to expand local community access to affordable, high-speed Internet. It's a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shift our tech infrastructure into high gear—benefiting our democracy, our culture, our economy, our healthcare, our public safety, our educational system and our environment.

Seattle may soon move forward with plans to connect the city's neighborhoods with high-speed broadband. If you're in the Seattle area, come to a meeting on Community Broadband and Digital Justice for Seattle, 6pm Mon, Jul 13 at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center, to learn about the details--and help articulating our technology needs for the next generation! Special guest: Seattle Chief Information Officer Bill Schrier; hosted by Reclaim the Media and the NW Media Action Grassroots Network.

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Federal broadband grants tied to strict net neutrality rules

Ryan Singel, Wired

Two federal agencies are now ready to hand out $4 billion in grants and loans to help bring broadband to the people and stimulate the economy, but applicants have to promise to play fairly with whatever devices, applications and services users want to use, vice president Joe Biden announced today.

Rural and inner-cities are likely to see the bulk of the benefits from the Broadband USA project, as the Department of Agriculture set aside $1.2 billion in infrastructure funds for rural ISPs and $800 million for so-called middle mile projects that connect ISPs to the internet’s backbone. The Commerce Department separately set aside $1.2 billion for infrastructure, up to $50 million for public computer centers such as libraries and up to $150 million to convince people that broadband tastes good enough to subscibe to.

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Is broadband a civil right?

Steve Rosenbaum, Huffington Post

There are some moments when you can feel the conversation change -- and the world tilt from right to left. Today was one of those days.

It began early at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York City. The PdF as it's known, is now in it's 6th year -- and attracts the top talent in politics, consulting, and technology.

Predictably, the conversation this year revolved around Twitter, Iran and the transformational power of social media to change the political landscape. The days agenda featured a list of Obama campaign and administration superstars -- and it perhaps is somewhat ironic that Julius Genakowski, the newly appointed FCC chairman wasn't able to attend, as he was being confirmed in DC just as the afternoon sessions began.

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TV Everywhere to spark antitrust concerns?

Paul Sweeting, Salon

NBC Universal General Counsel Rick Cotton, speaking at the Digital Media Conference in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, brushed off concerns that the deal between Comcast and Time Warner to test the feasibility of TV Everywhere was a first step toward bringing TV on the Internet under the control of Big Media.

“I know there’s been some static in the system that says this will somehow limit access to content online, but this is about increasing access,” Cotton said. “These are subscription networks now so it’s not really a big surprise that they would be subscription networks online as well.” He also shrugged off fears that the collaboration between programmers like Time Warner and ISPs like Comcast represented some sort of unholy cabal worthy of antitrust scrutiny from the government.

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Comcast, Time Warner Team Up to Control TV on the Internet

Om Malik, GigaOM

With the pervasiveness of broadband and easy availability of tools that allow web video to leap onto your television, cable companies see that their video distribution pipes are becoming less relevant. So they want to control how you watch premium content online and want to impose fees via an authentication system. Time Warner and Bewkes have been championing this concept — essentially an authentication system that requires viewers to have cable, telco or satellite subscriptions in order to watch certain premium content online or on other platforms. Bewkes recently said he wanted to launch the system during the second half of 2009. Time Warner spun out its cable business as a separate company. Time Warner owns premium services such as HBO.

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Congressman files bill to stop tiered broadband pricing

Stacey Higginbotham, GigaOM

Rep. Eric Massa (D-Corning) today introduced legislation that would force Internet Service Providers that want to implement usage-based pricing plans to go through several regulatory hurdles, including public hearings, to determine if such pricing is anti-competitive. Such usage-based plans may involve tiered pricing or caps based on the amount of data downloaded.

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Everyone loves broadband; the real fight is about Internet freedom

Brad Reed, Network World

In some ways, broadband has become the tech industry's equivalent to healthcare and education: everybody agrees that it's a good thing and everybody thinks all Americans should have access to it.

A quick glance over the deadline-beating public comments filed with the FCC this week shows that the vast majority of industry players and consumer advocates think that universal broadband access is a noble goal worth working toward. The Internet Innovation Alliance, for instance, says that the national broadband plan should "enable the government to partner with the private sector to extend broadband service to every corner of the country." AT&T, meanwhile, says that the broadband plan's two goals should be ensuring broadband access and adoption "for 100% of Americans" by 2014. And the Computer & Communications Industry Association says simply that the plan "must ensure that all Americans have access to broadband."

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey