As your constituent and a fan of Internet radio, I was alarmed to learn that music royalty rates were recently determined by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) which, if enacted, would certainly silence most or all of my favorite online listening services. For most webcasters, this royalty rate represents more than 100% of their total revenues!
The natural evolution of technology is a march which cannot and should not be inhibited, but from my standpoint it appears that the entertainment industry is trying their best to squash this new distribution channel and maintain their current business model, rather than to adjust their practices to accommodate this inevitable change. Internet radio is the distribution model of the future, and if record companies choose, they can shift their strategies to take advantage of it. It would appear, however, that they are refusing to do this independently, and are instead simply attempting to eliminate Internet radio outright. This is an unfair and illegitimate practice bordering on racketeering, and it frustrates the processes of free enterprise, innovation, and capitalism upon which our country was founded.
Internet radio provides a far wider variety of music than traditional over-the-air radio stations. This provides publicity and exposure to artists who might not otherwise be heard. This in turn allows the artistic community to flourish as more artists are able to make a living this way. As a club DJ myself, I use Internet radio to keep abreast of the latest dance music, and when I hear a song I like, I purchase the record so that I can play it myself during a performance. This is direct financial support of the artist as a result of the availability of Internet radio. This is no different than the way over-the-air radio currently works, and the recording industry and CRB seem to have no problem with that model.
The only difference between Internet radio and over-the-air radio is that Internet radio operates on a much smaller financial scale. They have far less overhead and far less revenue than traditional radio stations. Requiring them to pay these newly mandated rates is unreasonable and will not result in more revenue as most Internet radio stations will be forced to cease operations.
I suggest that you would have a hard time finding anyone outside the recording industry who disagrees with my perspective on this issue. Even organizations such as Clear Channel Communications, Inc and National Public Radio (NPR) are against this exorbitant rate change. This means that by taking action to prevent this change from going forward, you represent not only myself individually, but the vast majority of your constituents, and in fact, the country. Very few of us are in a position to actually do anything about this, but you are, and I trust this is a position you do not take lightly.
The shuttering of the webcasting industry would be a loss for not only independent business owners, but also for musical artists, for copyright owners, and for listeners like me who enjoy the wide variety of choices available via Internet radio.
I respectfully request that your office look into this matter and initiate action to prevent it. As the CRB rate decision is retroactive to January 1, 2006, please understand that time is of the essence -- as the immediate impact of this decision could silence many Internet radio stations forever.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.
Write your representatives too.