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WEBCASTING CASE SEEKS
YAHOO TESTIMONY
Yahoo Finds The RIAA Reasonable, Arbitrators Want To Know Why — So Do We, Really
A panel of arbitrators charged with setting the rate for streaming digital music said Monday (8/13) that they want to hear testimony from Yahoo, regarding its voluntarily agreement with the RIAA.

The arbitrators want to know what factors led Yahoo to strike the deal and why "it was a reasonable price to pay," according to retired federal district judge Curtis von Kann, one of three arbitrators selected by the Copyright Office for the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel (CARP).

"Everyone in this room knows that they are the big fish among everyone by far," said von Kann.

Such panels mediate royalty disputes under compulsory licenses, allowing radio broadcasters, cable operators and certain types of webcasters to transmit music for a fee, without negotiating individual license terms with each copyright holder.

RIAA CEO Hilary Rosen testified in July that of the three major webcasters, only Yahoo had signed with the RIAA, while America Online and Viacom’s MTVi have avoided agreements in hopes that the CARP would set a lower rate.

Currently, the recording industry seeks to charge webcasters either four cents for each song streamed or 15 percent of the company's gross revenue, while webcasters seek to pay 15 cents per hour of music.

RIAA officials said their rate is closest to what would have been negotiated between a willing buyer and a willing seller. But attorneys for the webcasters said some of the 26 RIAA deals demonstrate a pattern of intimidation. The RIAA attests that "willing" is synonymous with being forced at gunpoint.

Since the company is not in dispute with the recording industry, Yahoo is currently not represented on the witness list. And being an administrative tribunal rather than a court, the CARP cannot force third parties to testify in the proceedings, but might be able to coerce the company after buying it a few drinks.

"[We may] request one of you folks to invite them to spend a day with us," said von Kann. "I am interested in knowing, if we would make that request, who is the best one to usher them in to the room?"

RIAA attorney Robert Garrett said his side has asked Yahoo to appear, despite the industry’s previous desire to block the Internet giant from testifying. Yahoo officials were not able to comment by press time.

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