Issue June 26, 2007

City Strobe

Advocates say new royalty fees will kill Web radio
The Library of Congress’ Copyright Royalty Board is set to increase rates for Webcasters, including Internet radio stations and Webcasts from conventional radio stations. The move may bankrupt most small and mid-sized Webcasters, according to the SaveNetRadio Coalition, a group of artists, listeners, Webcasters and labels that organized a Day of Silence yesterday, with most Web radio broadcasts off the air.

Currently, such stations pay a percentage of royalties; under the new system, charges will be based on a per-performance rate. The decision, which takes effect July 15, is retroactive to 2006. If it stands, rates will go from 0.8 cents per song performance for 2006 to 1.9 cents in 2010.

Under the new formula, each song performance is tallied as a user listening to the stream; that number often runs in the hundreds for smaller Webcasters to the thousands and millions for larger Webcasters such as Yahoo and AOL.

“None of our DJs gets paid for doing this. All of our DJs do this out of love of music,” said James Vize, who goes by Fender on Aiiradio.net, a Louisville-based network of DJs broadcasting from around the world. Most of their broadcasts include independent artists, and they often broadcast live shows from venues such as Uncle Pleasant’s.

The new rates come at the behest of SoundExchange, which was created by the recording industry to increase online royalty rates. The group contends the new rates are needed to counteract the drop in CD sales and keep the recording industry afloat.

The increase would also affect nonprofit Webcasters such as WFPK-FM. There is a lower rate for low-volume, non-commercial Webcasters, but it is unclear whether public radio stations will be considered low-volume. “That is the $500 question; we’re not sure,” said Jon Hoban, deputy director of the Public Radio Partnership. He said WFPK and many Webcasters lack the software to determine exact number of listener-hours. If the PRP is affected, Hoban said the station’s streams would probably be shut down.

Conventional radio operators, as well as Webcasters and satellite radio, pay royalties to a song’s composer and lyricist. Conventional radio is exempt from performance fees, however, because of a longstanding notion that radio broadcasts function as free advertising. The changes also include a $500 minimum annual fee, or $500 per month for non-commercial Webcasters that stay under a set number of hours of playtime.

“It would really hurt all the local, unsigned, small-town bands from being heard,” Vize said.
“I just can’t believe that the people trying to impose this stuff don’t understand that there is plenty of money to go around,” said Louisville musician Leigh Ann Yost.

A bill known as the Internet Radio Equality Act is in committee in both the U.S. House (H.R. 2060) and Senate (S. 1353), and Reps. Baron Hill, D-Ind., and Ben Chandler, D-Ky., have co-sponsored the House version. The Act would reverse the March 2 decision and change the guidelines for setting rates in the future as well as exempting nonprofit stations. But Web radio advocates are not optimistic that Congress will act quickly. Hoban said PRP is keeping tabs on the bills.
—C. Elliot Ritter

’Tis summer, the Republicans hate gays
It is gay-bashing season in Kentucky — also known as “an election year.” Republicans, campaigning behind a morbidly flaccid governor and a spectacularly failed president, are trotting out the ol’ tried and true: homophobia. Last week saw a minor stampede by Republicans eager to be on the wrong side of this generation’s noisiest civil rights issue.

Caught in the crossfire are University of Kentucky employees, Surgeon General nominee James Holsinger and super-sexy hetero stud muffins Jack Conway and Dan Mongiardo. UK, hoping to become more competitive in the fornication-friendly world of academia, cleverly rewrote its health benefits package to include “an unrelated adult,” whether that adult and the employee are knocking boots in the conventional sense or not. In other words, UK hopes to provide the necessary benefits to snag top-level faculty and staff, whether they are married, unmarried, gay, straight or just plagued by that annoying friend who moved in back in ’05 and won’t get off the couch.

Naturally, the announcement got heterosexual-marriage advocates hotter than last month’s issue of Maxim. Kentucky Republican Party chairman Steve Robertson sent an op-ed piece to local newspapers statewide dragging Conway and Mongiardo into the mess, calling them “Gretels,” which caused citizens statewide to snicker uncontrollably.

Meanwhile, The Family Foundation’s anal-sex expert David Edmunds wrote a passionate Courier-Journal op-ed in defense of Holsinger, citing Holsinger’s recognition that the “reproductive and digestive systems are separate and unique,” which is clearly the kind of insight one looks for in a surgeon general (and the kind of op-ed one savors from the commonwealth’s most-distinguished editorial page).

Holsinger, who, like Edmunds, apparently never has sex unless it’s for reproductive purposes, wrote a paper in 1991 condemning anal sex, which outraged the gay community. With the outbreak of Puritanism, it might seem like nobody’s getting nailed in Kentucky, but that’s not true: The countless hardworking, talented gay workers in Kentucky get it just about every time they open a newspaper — or spend money on healthcare. —Jim Welp

The future of breathing
You don’t have to be Al Gore’s PowerPoint designer to see Louisville’s got an air-quality problem in summer. The bad news: Our ground-level ozone currently hovers at about 75 parts per billion, making it the most unpleasant air this side of the Clinique booth at the mall. But hey, look on the bright side: The other 999,999,925 parts of the billion aren’t smog. Yet, even at that concentration, the city is soon to be once again out of compliance if EPA administrator Stephen Johnson gets his way. Johnson pulled off the fancy trick of pissing off both environmentalists and the pro-pollution lobby by proposing a stricter standard of 70 parts per billion instead of the current 84.

Environmentalists are upset because they believe the standard should be a stricter 60 parts per billion, which they say would better safeguard public health. The pro-pollution lobby claims the EPA’s proposal would be bad for business, presumably allergists and cancer wards. After a public comment period, the new standard goes into effect next March.

Who are the evil folks spewing all that ozone into the air? They are us. Much of the lung-irritating ozone comes from industry, but most of it occurs when we put our running lawnmowers on our idling boats and tow them to the airport with our pickups and fly them all in circles over Smoggytown. Most experts believe we’ll never solve our smog problem without drastic measures, most notably the M-word: mass transit. With political courage and personal sacrifice both sorely lacking, the outlook for breathers shows scant promise. —JW

Check out LEO’s news blog, “The Lip,” at www.leoweekly.com. Contact the writers at citystrobe@leoweekly.com