"You probably don’t even hear it when it happens." – Bobby Bacala, from "Sopranos Home Movies", The Sopranos. July 15 is the effective date of new royalty rates to be paid by those who stream copyrighted music over the Internet. As that date fast approaches, many are hoping for a last minute reprieve from the sharp increase that would severely impact or, in many cases, silence Internet webcasters. Various conspiracy theories abound as to what will happen in the last minutes of July 14. Some place their hopes on the United States Court of Appeals issuing a stay of execution pending appeal of the Copyright Royalty Board decision to increase royalty rates; others are hoping Congress will step in. Some believe there is still time for an agreement to be reached by those representing digital music providers and those representing copyright holders. We have discussed the details of these issues in previous blog posts on April 26, May 2, and May 31.
Two things seem to be certain: there will be silence. And then there will be a lot of talking. June 26 has been designated a "Day of Silence" by the Savenetradiocoalition, who is asking webcasters to such off their streams in order to demonstrate what the Internet will be like if webcasters are forced off the air by impossible royalty payment obligations (I’m already trying to figure out how I’ll make it through the day without my favorite Internet radio programs to guide me). If Bobby Bacala and Tony Soprano were unlikely to engage in nonviolent protest, they were probably equally unlikely to take their grievances to the law. But that’s the other road to salvation at this point: the Internet Radio Equality Act, which has been introduced in both Houses of Congress as HR 2060 and S 1353. HR 2060 has been quietly and consistently gaining momentum. As of today, it has 119 co-sponsors. This issue will now have its day before Congress. The House Committee on Small Business has announced that it will hold a hearing entitled "’Assessing the Impact of the Copyright Royalty Board Decision to Increase Royalty Rates on Recording Artists and Webcasters" on June 28 at 10 am in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The witness list for this hearing is not complete, but it will likely include representatives from the recording industry, broadcasters and Internet webcasters of various shapes and sizes in an attempt to determine the effect of the CRB decision on small webcasters. Though the Committee does not have jurisdiction over the Internet Radio Equality Act (that bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the House Judiciary Committee), we can reasonably expect that the bill will be discussed as well. Anyone can make his or her views known to a Congressional Committee, even if it is not from the witness table. Written submissions can be directed to the Committee on Small Business; we can help you draft or submit such testimony, which would be especially persuasive if your Representative is a Member of that Committee.