- As the lame duck legislative session begins today, the webcasting community continues the fight to keep HR 5469 from passing in the Senate and becoming law.
A year that started with the webcasting industry united in a common goal to work on the CARP (Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel) rates and develop reasonable, equitable legislation as an industry standard has ended with the entire U.S.-based webcasting community up in arms over a private deal negotiated between the RIAA (Recording Industry Artists of America) and VOW (Voice of Webcasters).
“There is nothing wrong with a group of individual webcasters sitting down at the table to negotiate a deal with the RIAA,” said Ann Gabriel, President of Webcaster Alliance and CEO of Las Vegas-based Gabriel Media Inc. “Certainly they were entitled to try and seek relief from the October 20th retroactive rates deadline and were within their rights to do so. But when a private negotiation ends up being written into language for a Bill and then forced as a yolk around the neck of an entire industry which had no say in the matter, there is something terribly wrong with our legislative process.”
The webcasting industry at large watched in horror as an amended HR 5469 was passed through the House in early October. When initially introduced in late September by Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the one-paragraph Bill called for a 6-month stay in the imposed royalty rates collection on music broadcast over the Internet. The original version of 5469 was circulated, widely accepted and approved by both webcasters and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), which represents terrestrial Radio stations.
But before HR 5469 could be introduced on the House floor, the RIAA yelled foul, brought in the AFL-CIO to scuttle it and Sensenbrenner pulled it from the “rules suspension” session. Congressman Sensenbrenner then demanded the RIAA and VOW negotiate a deal. That privately negotiated deal then became the language of a new HR 5469, which ballooned into a 30-plus page piece of legislation considered by most in the webcasting industry to be a legal nightmare.
Gabriel and members of the Webcaster Alliance have spent the last several weeks producing an in-depth, multi-part series that covers the events surrounding HR 5469. The series explores the people, technologies, laws and events that led up to the introduction of HR 5469, and the division it caused within the webcasting community.
Las Vegas-based Attorney David LeGrand of Hale Lane has also taken an interest in the webcasters plight in working to keep HR 5469 from passing the Senate. “This is a complex Bill with many aspects and it is imperative for us to have someone like David who is well-rounded and able to deal with all of the issues wrapped into this piece of legislation,” Gabriel said.
LeGrand’s extensive experience in corporate formations, financing, and taxation combined with his Internet and telecommunications-related legal background make him unique among lawyers in the United States and especially valuable as an advisor to the flourishing webcasting industry.
“Webcasting is an integral part of the Internet,” said LeGrand when asked about his association with the Webcaster Alliance. “I look forward to working with Webcaster Alliance in their efforts to establish the viability of and standards for webcasting now and in the future.”
“The story of HR 5469 has it all,” Gabriel continued, “greed, scandal, betrayal, politics, lies and deception. Our hope is to bring it to the attention of the American public and the Legislators who truly didn’t realize what happened with this Bill and work with them to right the terrible wrong that was done in this case.”
This is from Gabriel’s intro to the tale:
- This is the story of an industry struggling to grow against all the odds. It’s a story of the people, the technologies, the laws and the circumstances that exist and how an entire industry has been rocked to the core by the American legislative system.
There are enough acronyms to make your head spin: DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), CARP (Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel), LOC (Librarian of Congress), RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), IWA (International Webcasting Association), VOW (Voice of Webcasters), NAB (National Association of Broadcasters).
And then there are the “technical” terms” – P2P File Sharing (sometimes referred to as just file sharing), Downloading, Live Streaming, On-Demand streaming and the one this story is all about – Internet Radio.
If I hadn’t lived through these last months and witnessed for myself what happened, I would have a hard time believing it was true. But I did live through it; I did see what this has done to the webcasting community – and now I need to back up my statement with actions and bring the truth and the facts to light.
There are some people along the way who have tried to challenge my credibility in regard to the very public stand I have taken against this injustice and in speaking out for the entire community. Some have suggested that since my “business” really isn’t affected by HR 5469 I have no authority to speak out on behalf on the industry as a whole. To those who have questioned me I say two things: First HR 5469 in its present form affects everyone in the webcasting industry, even companies who don’t stream content on the Internet. This is a fact. Second, even though the main focus for business within Gabriel Media, Inc. is special event broadcasting, if I choose to stream music, unless it is music entirely from Independent Artists, then I am subjected to paying either the current CARP Rates or being bound under HR 5469.
I took a very public stand in this matter because I was witness to a tremendous violation of trust. I could not stand by and watch the industry I love be buried under the burden of bad legislation. I was asked to respond to a need within the industry for a voice that would be heard. An industry that needs a champion. Someone who will not just stand silently by and watch – too paralyzed by fear to make a move in any direction.
And while I can share with you my perspectives, my thoughts and my feelings as things evolved, it is really my goal to share with you the people and events that were responsible for bringing us to where we are now.
Over the course of this series you’ll hear from people representing all different segments of the webcasting industry. You’ll hear their stories, their thoughts, their opinions and their problems with HR 5469 as it stands in its current form. You’ll wade through the army of acronyms, see how they all fit together, and hopefully be able to understand the challenges that are facing the webcasting industry and how we are working to overcome them. You’ll hear about Congressman Jay Inslee who worked hard to introduce legislation that would have benefitted our industry greatly – legislation that was unceremoniously tossed aside; Congressman James Sensenbrenner who introduced HR 5469; and Senator Jesse Helms who refused to be swayed by pressure to allow HR 5469 to pass on the Senate Floor.