A bill which could have established more reasonable royalties for Internet
webcasters while silencing non-commercial webcasters, has died in the Senate. We reported on October 12th
that the bill could prevent small-scale and college-based Internet radio stations
from operating, and asked readers to express their concerns to the government.
Last Wednesday, a "hold" was placed on the bill (H.R.5469) by an anonymous
Senator to delay any vote. And when the Senate closed on Friday, going into recess
for elections, the bill had failed to reach the floor for a vote. As a result, this
incarnation of the bill is effectively dead. According to a report by The Register,
strong opposition to the bill had reached the offices of Senators Joe Lieberman
(D-CT) and John Kerry (D-MA).
The bill would have established a mixed bag of new royalties for Internet radio,
but also would have suspended an October 19th due date for webcasters to pay
expensive back-royalties. There was some concern then that, with the bill's defeat, many
webcasters would imminently be required to shell out tens of thousands of dollars for
music played between 1998 and the present.
In an unexpected last-minute move, the Recording Industry Association of America
(RIAA) granted a partial extension on those back-royalties, and webcasters were only
asked to pay up to $2,500, the Associated Press reported on
Sunday. However, $2,500 is still more than some stations can afford. It will be
interesting to see this week how many webcasters actually pay these back-owed
royalties, and how many will simply ignore the RIAA and Library of Congress
regulations. The webcasting royalties now imposed are not required of traditional
Not surprisingly, many large media outlets like Viacom/MTV
reported the bill's demise as a total loss for webcasters. While it is true that
negotiations for a new deal between the RIAA and webcasters must now start over,
hundreds of non-commercial Internet stations will get a second chance to operate free
from music royalties they cannot pay.
Though the battle has subsided, it is far from over. In its long game of
attempting to silence alternative media outlets, big-media industry groups like the
RIAA will continue to abuse their legislative influence. Keep watching here for the
latest updates, and how you can help Internet radio make a comeback.