Regular listeners will probably be aware of our challenges as a streaming broadcast station since December of 2015. We successfully transitioned from one licensed webcast provider (which went bankrupt) to another. Now our new network provider is under legal assault as two major labels, Sony and Vivendi/Universal, battle it out in court over royalty rates and terms. While we play music from neither of these labels, all stations on our network platform are damaged in the melee. Late last week our network set up “geofencing”, effectively blocking our broadcast from reaching our listeners in Canada, Japan, Russia, Taiwan, Philippines, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Switzerland. We’re still trying to determine which other countries are impacted in this decision. While we work on re-distributing our little indie station to listeners around the world in a legal, licensed fashion, we also sent an email to Senate Judiciary Committee member Senator Al Franken. It’s a Hail Mary pass, to be sure, but if there’s one man who can make an impact, it’s Sen. Al Franken.
Good afternoon, Senator. I’m a registered Democrat, and an Al Franken fan and former listener to your Air America Radio program. Personally I found the slide-whistle both charming and irksome (after repeated use). But you were YOU, you did it well, and you made great radio.
I appeal to you in my role as a radio hobbyist, who has been moderately successful in netcasting and promoting the resurgence of an “alternative music” subgenre first popularized in 1991. We’ve been able to promote independent artists and record labels to a new generation of listeners around the globe through our efforts, as well as co-sponsor events featuring artists from around the world. This success is a direct result of the Small Webcaster Settlement Act of 2002, and the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2009.
In late 2015, our operation (and thousands of others in the U.S. and around the world) were essentially invalidated by the Copyright Royalty Board (https://www.loc.gov/crb/), who again set the bar so high as to be a barrier to entry to all but the most major players in the industry, and granting an anticompetitive advantage to the major labels, who care nothing for independent music and record labels, as they provide music choice, and eat into their bottom line.
Congress has twice stepped in to “rescue” the small webcaster from this judicial overreach, and yet the CRB allows (and even promotes) anticompetitive practices and restraint of trade, even after having been legislated against twice previously.
The audience we’ve gladly served for the last five years has no interest in major labels, who wouldn’t give them the time of day on a good day. But they DO appreciate our tireless efforts to promote them and celebrate their work to a worldwide audience. And we’re just a micro of the macro. Thousands of stations around the world are in the same boat as we are, whether they’re promoting Dixieland Jazz of the 1940s, soundtracks for Japanese animation, or (as we do) shoegaze and dream pop from the early 1990s. We help these bands find audiences, promote tours, and help sell their music. The major labels and the CRB are actively opposed to this kind of effort, previously upheld by the Small Webcaster Settlement Act.
I’m not a Minnesotan. I’m just a fan, and a non-commercial webcaster, appealing to a former radio host. I recognize the current legal climate allows virtually nothing to be accomplished. Normally, cynicism and fatalism are my fallback position: easy to do, and the results are guaranteed. This is just a Hail Mary pass thrown in your general direction. I’m at a loss for redress of grievances, and I appeal to you. Thanks for your attention, sincerely.
Greg Wilson, Station Manager, DKFM
Will it help? God only knows. Surely there’s a sane approach to U.S. Copyright somewhere, as it has impacts worldwide.