Is Silence Golden? - InformationWeek

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Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
6/26/2007
10:22 AM
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Is Silence Golden?

Since a bunch of badly disguised radicals trespassed on a merchant ship and tossed some of its cargo into the waters of Boston Harbor, people have come up with imaginative ways to protest laws that they see as unfair, unjustified, or wrong.... OK, that's a pretty hokey opening. I apologize. But it was the best way I could think of to introduce the topic of the "Day of Silence" that is being held today by a group of U.S.-based Webcasters.

Since a bunch of badly disguised radicals trespassed on a merchant ship and tossed some of its cargo into the waters of Boston Harbor, people have come up with imaginative ways to protest laws that they see as unfair, unjustified, or wrong.... OK, that's a pretty hokey opening. I apologize. But it was the best way I could think of to introduce the topic of the "Day of Silence" that is being held today by a group of U.S.-based Webcasters.They are protesting a decision by the Copyright Royalty Board to drastically raise royalty rates (including 17 months' of retroactive payments) for streaming Internet radio from .0008 cents per performance to .0019 cents by 2010. The policy is due to go into effect on July 16.

So a group of Internet radio stations, under the rubric of SaveNetRadio, have either gone silent (Pandora, for example) or are replacing today's streams with public service announcements (Live365.com). They are hoping to inspire their listeners to contact their congressional representatives and ask them to support the Internet Radio Equality Act, which was introduced last month by Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., and which would overturn the CRB decision.

There have been some attempts to alleviate the situation in other ways. SoundExchange, the group representing the four major labels and thousands of artists and independent labels -- and which collects Internet music royalties -- offered to allow small Webcasters with revenue of $1.25 million or less to pay below-market rates for songs played from 2006 through 2010. SaveNetRadio rejected the plan; spokesperson Jake Ward said in a written statement, "Labeling webcasters small or large is a distinction without a difference. Two of the most prominent webcasters, Pandora.com and Live365, are models of industry success but would be bankrupted by the CRB and by the SoundExchange proposals."

I am a frequent listener to Internet radio; I like it not only because it's convenient and because it offers a wide range of music styles (my listening habits are eclectic, to say the least -- at the moment, they veer toward Ukelele Ike, klezmer, and Verdi), but because it allows me to become familiar with artists and music styles that I never would have encountered otherwise. I don't listen to commercial radio music stations, I don't go to concerts, and I'm no longer of the age when the latest music trends are a part of my daily life. So I've come to depend on my daily fix of streaming music to get me through my workday. If it disappeared because these sites could no longer afford to operate, I'd miss it very much.

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