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Posted 3 Jun 2002 09:22:50 UTC

As the US Librarian of Congress considers license fees for Internet radio, the Canadian equivalent of the RIAA is pushing to increase fees for Internet broadcasting there. Canadian Internet broadcaster RantRadio is leading a campaign to stop these fees, which they argue might lead to the end of independent, non-profit Internet radio in Canada.

SOCAN, the Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada, submits every year a proposed tariff schedule for radio stations and other media outlets which play music. The Copyright Board of Canada is then responsible for issuing a final decision as to what the tariffs will actually be.

In this year's proposed tariff schedule, SOCAN is attempting to introduce "Tariff 22", which would be a monthly fee of C$0.25 (US$0.16) per "subscriber" to non-profit Internet radio services. Advertising-supported stations would pay a larger fee. These fees would apply even to stations such as RantRadio which receive permission from the artists whose songs they play.

As RantRadio argues, this would create two problems for Canadian Internet broadcasters. First is the monetary expense to stations, many of which are run by hobbyists with their own money. It seems likely that many such stations would be forced to close if their operators could not afford to pay the fees. The second problem is the paperwork burden and privacy imposition that would be caused by the need to track "subscribers" to a free service which previously required no registration of any sort.

While SOCAN's plan is perhaps not quite as invasive as that proposed by the US CARP and recently rejected by the Librarian of Congress, it is nonetheless dangerous to the future of Internet radio in Canada. As large organizations such as SOCAN and the RIAA attempt to enrich their own pockets, it is the listeners and producers of Internet radio who suffer.

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