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Comment: Nyet Radio

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  Recognizing that the arbitrary discrimination against webcasters perpetuated by the congressionally empowered CARP (Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel) and mitigated insufficiently by the Librarian of Congress, U.S. Representatives Jay Inslee (D-WA), George Nethercutt (R-WA), and Rick Boucher (D-VA) have introduced the Internet Radio Fairness Act. These legislators recognize that quasi-communist regulatory excess swallowed net radio and regurgitated nyet radio.

  I first lambasted the CARP procedure on May 21 and the Librarian’s decision on June 21. I’ll let you read my archived posts, rather than trying to rekindle my ire here. But allow me to recap my arguments: 1) There is no reason the delivery method of a radio station (Internet or airwaves) should impact its royalty fees—listenership should do that. 2) The airwaves are public property—regulation is premised upon that—and the public allowed consolidation of the airwaves by corporations on the promise that Internet radio would supplement the airwaves with some real variety. Disallowing that now is disingenuous. 3) The recording industry, embittered by growing file-trading online, has decided to stop Internet radio before it starts, despite the fact that it is a very different (i.e. temporal) medium. Regulators should not fall prey to their irrationality.

  If you feel compelled to hear the copyright holders’ (not necessarily the artists’ I might add) side of the story, read this RIAA FAQ. However, I’m afraid they shoot themselves in the foot with questions 10 and 11. Either they really aren’t worried about traditional radio, or—almost by their own admission—they’re picking on webcasters in lieu of a costlier battle with traditional radio’s mega-conglomerates. If they’re not worried about traditional radio (and why should they be when 75+ years of broadcasting hasn’t put them out of business), then they are, as I’ve posited previously, merely paranoid.

  The RIAA FAQ claims the CARP and Librarian agree that Internet radio has no promotional value. Ludicrous. Perhaps not a significant value to the RIAA, given ’net radio’s dinky market share, but I can personally attest to discovering artists and/or albums online and subsequently purchasing their/the work. If anything, the potential for webcasters to link to online retailers should make the recording industry salivate. Moreover, Internet radio is an antidote to illegal mp3 trading. Obviously, it can be regulated; while song swapping persists sans Napster. The RIAA ought to rejoice and facilitate webcasting, not declare it a punching bag.

  The system’s patently disproportionate regulation of webcasters (versus broadcasters) has already closed numerous fledgling web stations. Yet, even as government bureaucracy attempts to distance citizens from their technology, technology facilitates citizen feedback to government. Even if you’re not yet an I-radio listener, fax your congressional representatives in support of the IRFA, simply for the sake of government accountability.

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