Lawmakers propose reversal of Net radio fee hikes

[SOURCE: C-Net|, AUTHOR: Anne Broache]
A bill introduced in Congress Thursday aims to overturn a controversial royalty fee hike that Internet radio advocates say threatens to cripple their services. The "Internet Radio Equality Act," introduced by Reps. Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Don Manzullo (R-IL), would invalidate a March 2 decision by the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board that calls for hiking royalty rates paid by Net radio operators. "You can't put an economic chokehold on this emerging force of democracy," Inslee said in a statement e-mailed by a spokeswoman. "There has to be a business model that allows creative Webcasters to thrive and the existing rule removes all the oxygen from this space." The bill's introduction comes less than two weeks after the CRB declined to reconsider most of its decision. Small Webcasters, National Public Radio, Clear Channel Communications and others had filed petitions for a rehearing. Some have indicated they are considering filing an appeal of the rules in court. If it were to stand, the CRB's existing ruling would result in fee increases on Internet radio operators ranging from 300 to 1200 percent between 2006 and 2012, according to a group called SaveNetRadio, which has been lobbying Congress for relief. In addition to repealing that regime, the new House bill offers a compromise: It would set the rate at 7.5 percent of the Webcaster's revenue "directly related to" its transmission of sound recordings, or 33 cents per hour of sound recordings transmitted to a single listener. It would be up to the Webcaster to decide which model to use. That's comparable to what is currently required of satellite radio operators. The bill also calls for public radio broadcasters to submit a report to Congress on how to determine rates for their class of services



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