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Signatories of the latest letter urge the Librarian "to conduct a fair and impartial process by rejecting the invitation of others to interject extra-record considerations through ex parte communications."

WEBCASTING WARS IN DC: UPDATE

Online Radio Geeks Hit DC to Protest CARP Rates; Congresspeople Write Letters to Librarian
As we reported recently, representatives of Internet radio companies have descended on Washington, DC to protest recommended royalty fees put forward by a Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel, or CARP, reporting to the U.S. Copyright Office. They plan to meet with members of Congress and argue that the proposed rates will drive them out of business.

The Librarian of Congress will issue a final ruling on the issue on 5/21.

This political pilgrimage follows an online "Day of Silence" on 5/1, when virtual stations either suspended Webcast of music or dedicated their resources to streaming information about the CARP conflict.

According MeasureCast, which measures audience size for Webcasters (and may we say, what a kickin' business model!), the day before the protest marked a peak in listener volume, garnering some 4% of the month's total ratings. One representative of the firm admitted to newsbytes.com that the figure "could be a coincidence," but speculated that the hoopla surrounding Webcasting might've spiked listener interest.

Meanwhile, back in DC, Friday marked a daylong roundtable on Webcasting. Stimulants were required.

The CARP recommendation set fees at 0.14 cents per listener per song. While the RIAA, via its royalty-collection agency, SoundExchange, maintains that this amount is a mere fraction of the rate requested by the music industry. It has thus urged the biz to counter the Webcasters’ protests with letters to government officials supporting the rate—the Net radio community says the amount adds up to the devastating sum of 200% or more of revenues.

Twenty congressional reps, including pro-technology firebrands Rick Boucher (D-VA) and Chris Cannon (R-UT), have sent letters to the Librarian, arguing that the rates would stifle innovation.

"Congress intended the statutory license process to be fair and efficient so that the Webcast industry—both Internet-only programming and terrestrial radio retransmissions—could be free of legal uncertainty, grow quickly and pay creators increasing amounts as the industry developed," reads the letter, which argues the proposed rate would "force hundreds of small Webcasters out of business."

Not to be outdone, 17 other Congresspeople have written the Librarian, arguing that the CARP "process should be respected." The signatories—including hitters like Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), Rep. Mary Bono (R-CA), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC), Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) and Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-VA)—urge the Librarian "to conduct a fair and impartial process by rejecting the invitation of others to interject extra-record considerations through ex parte communications."

In other words, outside parties should not influence a procedure that is supposed to be determined by on-the-record testimony. The reps behind the letter point to two relevant sections of the Copyright Act (112 and 114) as the basis for the CARP’s authority. "Such decision-making is not only mandated by statute

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