A Riddle: When is a broadcast no longer a broadcast?
Thoughts from The Kagan Streaming Broadband Summit
This has been a riddle over which the music and broadcast industries have been debating for some time now. The RIAA claims that an AM/FM broadcast, whether analog or digital, is not a broadcast once it is streamed over the Internet. Currently, AM/FM broadcasts are exempt from public performance of sound recording license obligations. The broadcast industry, understandably, argues that a broadcast is a broadcast, regardless of the delivery system, and thus exempt under the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act from license obligations. And if we are to believe webcasters complaints about the process and terms to get a license, we can certainly sympathize. It's in this context that RIAA president & CEO, Hillary Rosen, spoke to a unenthusiastic gathering of broadcasters and webcasters at the Kagan Streaming Broadband Summit on March 1st.
Broadcasters are in line with what has been a government policy of providing a technologically neutral playing field for companies to compete in a converged media world. Traditionally, various media channels, including publishers, broadcasters, cable and communications, had been subjected to very different rules. In addition, players in one media channel often were prevented from operating in other channels. And so telephone companies were prevented from offering video and cable from offering voice, while cross-channel ownership restrictions were imposed across all industries. As illustrated by the AOL Time Warner and Bertelsmann/RTL Group mergers, though, those rules have progressively been put aside as a fragmented media industry converges around digitization and the Internet.
In keeping with this convergence, government policy has shifted from sector specific rules (ie., one set for broadcaster, another for cable,…) to technology-neutral rules. The logic is if a bit is a bit, then it really doesn't matter how it is packaged or delivered, it should still be treated as a bit. Now back to the broadcaster's argument: content and programming are nothing but bits that can be delivered through an array of delivery channels, including analog and digital terrestrial broadcast, satellite broadcast, webcast and wireless, to name a few. To treat that content/bit any differently on any of those delivery systems would skew the market, providing an advantage to one medium over the others. Simply put, if broadcasters have to pay license fees to webcast programming that they are broadcasting license-free, why would they webcast? This in turn would deprive consumers from choosing how they can access music.
The broadcasters' argument, though, misses an important fact: webcasters must and should pay mechanical licenses. If the interest is to create a level playing field, then Hillary is right in that extending the broadcast exemption to simulcasting "would not be fair for webcasters, artists or consumers." Not only would extending the exemption put webcasters at a distinct disadvantage (they already start the game at a tremendous disadvantage as compared to established broadcasters), it would lead to higher licensing fees for webcasters since labels would likely make up some perceived losses from the exemption to broadcasters - at least this is my interpretation of Hillary's remark that labels' ability to increase their returns over multiple channels would ultimately allow them to "a fairer sharing of our investment across [those] outlets."
But why are broadcasters exempt anyway? The promotional impact of radio airplay on CD sales, the major labels' cash cow, would warrant an exemption for broadcasters, one they do not enjoy in regards to performance rights since songwriters do not benefit financially from those sales. This raises the question of whether webcasters should be subject to licensing obligations at all. There is every reason to believe that as webcasting matures, it could have a much greater impact on music sales, whether downloadable or CD, particularly with one-click purchasing. And what about Napster for that matter? There is mounting evidence that Napster, which has recently started to include a direct link to, Bertelsmann-owned, CD Now in its latest software version, may in fact promote album sales. Whatever one's view, let us at least remain consistent: either we side with broadcasters and abolish the licensing regime in order to legitimize their broadcast exemption, or make broadcasters face the same rules as any other music outlet and pay their due.
AOL Time Warner - www.aoltimewarner.com
Bertelsmann - www.bertelsmann.com
CD Now - www.cdnow.com
Kagan - www.kagan.com
Napster - www.napster.com
RIAA - www.riaa.com
RTL Group - www.rtlgroup.com
Related MusicDish e-Journal Articles:
» The Making of Giants - Bertelsmann Takes Aim at AOL Time Warner
Related News from Mi2N:
» Rob Glaser, Scott Kurnit And Hilary Rosen Named Keynote Speakers At Kagan Streaming Broadband Conference March 1 In New York
» 13 Music Label Sold to MTN
» Darcus Beese Named President Of Island Records
» ASCAP Revenues Top $1.144 Billion In 2017
» BMG Appoints New Creative Directors In Nashville
» Live.me Launches Its First Live Musical Themed Content Series
News Beat Directory
» [2018-06-23] The 2018 MIDEM Silk Road International Music Alliance Signing; International Music Industries Signing Of A Mutual Resource Sharing Agreement With Shanghai Conservatory Of Music & The China Records Group
» [2018-06-06] Screen Music Connect To Explore The Music Of Film, Television And Interactive Media; Created By James Hannigan, Award-winning Composer And Game Music Connect Co-founder, Screen Music Connect Builds On The Success Of The Sold-out Game Music Conferences
» [2018-06-05] Fred Casimir To Develop BMG's Global Recordings Business; As Well As Building BMG's European Infrastructure, Casimir Was Instrumental In Developing BMG's Recordings Business
» [2018-06-03] 13 Music Label Sold To MTN; DSN Music Spins Off Record Label To Albuquerque Music Entrepreneur's New Group
» [2018-06-02] CISAC 2018 Annual Report; A Comprehensive Overview Of The Confederation's Work To Serve 4 Million Creators And 239 Authors Societies Across The World
» [2018-06-02] MusicDish Announces A Love Electric 2018 China Tour; The Tour Will Crisscross Through China With 12 Shows In 8 Cities, Including Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhuhai, Shenzhen, Kunming, Jiaxin, Wuhan And Beijing
» [2018-06-02] Darcus Beese Named President Of Island Records; Renowned U.K. Music Executive To Join Universal Music Group's U.S. Label Leadership
» [2018-05-17] Avant-Garde Label Maybe Noise Launches In Beijing; The Official Launch Will Be On May 26 At Magnet Theater With A Performance Supporting Its First Vinyl Release: Píng Zč
» [2018-05-04] Award-Winning Lithuanian Rock Band Colours Of Bubbles "She Is The Darkness" 2018 China Tour; The Tour Will Kickoff In Shanghai Where The Band Will Represent Lithuania During The Country's Signing To The Silk Road Music Alliance
» [2018-05-01] Hollywood Heavyweights Launch New Christian Music Label; Their Debut Release, Firma Collective - Songs For Every Soul, Was Produced By Mgrdichian And Mixed By The Legendary Brian Reeves
» [2018-04-30] Pop Artist Ava King Releases New Single; Paris-born Ava King Decided To Move To Beijing Where She Wrote For One Of The Biggest Chinese Movie Production Companies, HuaYi Brothers
» [2018-04-27] NetEase Cloud Music Sign Distribution Partnership With B2 Music; Chinese Music Streaming Service To Release Billboard "Best Of Asia" Album Series
follow MusicDish on