Internet radio is crack

There’s no logical reason why internet radio should be killed. The Copyright Royalty Board is forcing net radio to pay a royalty rate for music which is quite frankly insane. As the NPR story pointed out

The new royalty rate is based on a per-song, per-user fee.

A Webcaster determines how many listeners are logged on each hour. Then, they multiply that number by the number of songs streamed in the hour, and multiply that by the royalty rate.

Right now, the rate is only 8/100 of a cent per user per performance.

But a small Webcaster, who may put out a one-hour show that includes 15 songs and gets an average of 300 listeners a week, would have to pay more than $1,800 a year in royalties.

Compared to the rates given to other broadcast mediums, it makes no sense. It’s nearly hysterical. Which reminds me of crack.

Essentially, a gram of crack cocaine is punished 100x what powdered cocaine is, and crack can bring down federal sentencing minimums and all kinds of bad juju. Why? There’s no reasonable explanation for why anyone would want to set up a system that unbalanced. There are bad reasons for the disparity, particularly racism or the hysteria around the drug, certainly, but from the standpoint of deterring crime, preventing societal ills, or making users more reluctant to try it, having crack cocaine punished so heavily doesn’t make sense.

And that’s where we are with internet radio. The MPAA and RIAA have been fighting every internet channel for years now, suing their customers and innocents in their pursuit of the file sharers. They’ve argued they should be allowed to hack people’s computers, engage in “pretexting” and use the DMCA as a weapon to force takedown of infringing and non-infringing content alike. They’ve responded to the perceived lawless threat with a mix of vigilantism, extortion, and vilification, and this unfair royalty structure, the death of internet radio, is the fruit of that war.

They have made file sharers into drug gangs, sharing music with a friend into giving a grade school student the first hit for free. This can’t only be a fight about this decision — we have to understand that until we can have rational conversations about copyright, and the real benefits and dangers of digital distribution, that preserving internet radio still means we’ll be fighting racketeering charges with mandatory prison sentences for sharing an album over a P2P service.

No single incident matters until we’re winning the larger debate.