Recording Industry Scores Victory Over Radio Broadcasters

U.S. Copyright Office rules in favor of RIAA

December 11, 2000 12:00 AM ET

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) won another victory on Friday, Dec. 8 -- although it happened in the U.S. Copyright Office, not a courtroom. The office's ruling stated that radio broadcasters are not exempt from paying royalty fees to artists and record companies when they simulcast a broadcast on the Internet. Broadcasters had been exempt from paying licensing fees under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and Friday's ruling came as the Copyright Office was reviewing a request for an extension of that policy.

In March, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) filed a suit against the RIAA citing "substantial hardship" if forced to pay royalties to artists and producers for streaming their programming. The decision against the NAB was not only a victory for the RIAA but for the Digital Media Association (DiMA), or Webcasters, who have been paying the royalty fees the NAB has been exempt from when they broadcast copyrighted music over the Internet. The DiMA is an alliance of seventy-five digital media companies including Amazon.Com Inc.

However, the RIAA was not the day's biggest winner. The Webcasters also came out on top in another ruling by the U.S. Copyright Office that went against the RIAA. The Copyright Office ruled that Webcasters did not have to ask permission of recording companies or pay special fees when consumers register favorite songs or artists on a site. The RIAA had argued that requesting information from consumers regarding their music preferences and then tailoring the service to their choices constituted an interactive service and that the Webcasters would need individual licenses for the material requested by consumers. The Copyright Office stated that listing preferences did not make the site interactive and therefore the individual licenses unnecessary.

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