Copyright decision may be death knell for independent webcasters

BY DANIEL MCSWAIN, Radio and Internet Newsletter

The US Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) has announced its decision on Internet radio royalty rates, rejecting all of the arguments made by Webcasters and instead adopting the "per play" rate proposal put forth by SoundExchange(a digital music fee collection body created by the RIAA).

RAIN has learned the rates that the Board has decided on, effective retroactively through the beginning of 2006. They are as follows:

2006 $.0008 per performance
2007 $.0011 per performance
2008 $.0014 per performance
2009 $.0018 per performance
2010 $.0019 per performance

A "performance" is defined as the streaming of one song to one listener; thus a station that has an average audience of 500 listeners racks up 500 "performances" for each song it plays.

The minimum fee is $500 per channel per year. There is no clear definition of what a 'channel' is for services that make up individualized playlists for listeners.

For noncommercial webcasters, the fee will be $500 per channel, for up to 159,140 ATH (aggregate tuning hours) per month. They would pay the commercial rate for all transmissions above that number.

Participants are granted a 15 day period wherein they have the opportunity to ask the CRB for a re-hearing.

Within 60 days of the final determination, the decision is supposed to be published in the Federal Register, along with any technical corrections that the Board may wish to make.

Within 30 days of publication in the Federal Register, it can be appealed (but only by the participants) to the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia.

RAIN Analysis [Kurt Hanson]:

Because a typical Internet radio station plays about 16 songs an hour, that's a royalty obligation in 2006 of about 1.28 cents per listener-hour.

In 2006, a well-run Internet radio station might have been able to sell two radio spots an hour at a $3 net CPM (cost-per-thousand), which would add up to .6 cents per listener-hour.

Even adding in ancillary revenues from occasional video gateway ads, banner ads on the website, and so forth, total revenues per listener-hour would only be in the 1.0 to 1.2 cents per listener-hour range.

That math suggests that the royalty rate decision — for the performance alone, not even including composers' royalties! — is in the in the ballpark of 100% or more of total revenues.

article originally published at

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