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Broadcasters, RIAA wrangling over Webcasting fees

The fight over Webcasting fees and rules is as hot as ever at the U.S.
Copyright Office, after a three-judge arbitration panel in February issued its
preliminary judgement.

Comments were due at the office, which is part of the Library of Congress,
last Friday, and most parties opposed some part of the judges' preliminary

The only semi-happy party is the Recording Industry Association of America,
and even that organization would prefer higher fees. The RIAA defended the
complicated rules that Webcasters are required to follow if they want to stream
their content online.

Meanwhile, everyone else found something to hate in the ruling, from fees
that would charge Webcasters per song and per listener, to the complicated
reporting requirements.

"As presently formulated, the Copyright Office's proposed rule totally
ignores the realities of the radio industry and would impose on broadcasters an
unrealistic and impossibly burdensome reporting and record-keeping regime,
modeled on the demands of the record companies," wrote lawyers representing
radio broadcasters. "The burden that would be imposed by the proposed rule is so
out of keeping with the ancillary nature of Internet streaming that most
broadcasters would simply stop streaming were it to be adopted."

The rule would have the same chilling effect on noncommercial radio, wrote
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (R-Ohio), the only member of Congress to submit comments.
"The per-song, per-listener fees proposed will be unduly burdensome to college
radio stations exploring the emerging webcasting technologies," Kucinich wrote,
mentioning several schools in his district that would be affected.

The deadline for the Library of Congress to issue a final ruling is May 21.