Broadcasters vs. Web Royalties

On Wednesday, September 11, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) filed a brief with the U.S. Copyright Office seeking relief from the implementation of a webcasting royalty schedule announced this summer by the Librarian of Congress, James Billington. In June, Billington determined that commercial stations streaming their musical programming on the Internet should pay a rate of .07 cents per song per 1000 listeners, a rate less than half that suggested by the music industry–backed Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel.

The NAB has asked for a postponement of royalty collections until after a court determines the legality of the royalty schedule. Attorneys for both sides will begin presenting arguments in the case November 4.

In its petition, the trade group claims that "thousands of radio stations will suffer irreparable harm in that they will have been required to dedicate substantial resources to the complex task of calculating, preparing statements of account, and making royalty payments covering a four-year retroactive period, as well as ongoing monthly royalty payments before the court rules," according to a statement from the NAB.

The NAB contends that, "unless a stay is granted, there is a very real specter of administrative chaos for all parties involved, given the inevitable proliferation of refund claims and the practically impossible task of tracing royalties that may have been distributed among thousands of copyright owners and performers." Some small Web-only stations and some college radio stations have already ceased streaming because their tight budgets would not allow for payment of royalties.