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College Webcasters to Pay Discounted Royalty Rates

June 04, 2003|Jon Healey | Times Staff Writer

The recording industry has granted college radio stations and other noncommercial broadcasters deep discounts on the fees they pay for transmitting music over the Internet, wrapping up a series of hard-fought deals with Webcasters.

The noncommercial Webcasters received the discounts not only because they couldn't afford the rates set for commercial Internet stations, but also because they weren't trying to build businesses around music, said Steven Marks, a senior vice president at the Recording Industry Assn. of America.

The discounts could save those Webcasters hundreds of dollars, although their savings decrease as their audience grows. Reached late Saturday night, the deal calls for annual fees as low as $200, compared with a minimum of $500 under the rates set by the Librarian of Congress last year.

Supporters of the pact include the RIAA and groups representing college and university broadcasters, religious broadcasters and recording artists. Even some of the broadcasters that backed the deal, however, said they would continue to press for lower royalties in the future.

The RIAA had reached agreements with small and large commercial Webcasters and leading over-the-air broadcasters that "simulcast" their stations' programs on the Web. Marks said there aren't likely to be any more deals this year.

Will Robedee, vice chairman of Collegiate Broadcasters Inc., said one problem with the deal is that it requires stations with an average of 200 or more listeners throughout the day to pay an additional fee for each listener. Nevertheless, he said, the deal eliminates uncertainties and enables stations to make "an informed decision on whether to Webcast."

Sheldon Steinbach, general counsel of the American Council on Education, said the rates "should not constitute a hardship in any way, shape or form to any individual station."

He added, "We found that some of the negotiators failed to see the big picture, and were continually scrapping over pennies and losing track of the greater good that was being achieved."

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