After a flurry of renegotiations, arguments, Congressional wrist-slapping, and a lot of steam blowing, webcasting's D-Day (July 15) has passed. A low fog still hangs, and for many webcasters, the future is still up in question.
Late last week, as the new webcasting royalty fee schedule approached, outcry from webcasters, the listening public, and Congress sparked another round of negotiations with SoundExchange, the company that collects and distributes webcasting royalties. The minimum per-channel fee that threatened services like Pandora, Live365, and Rhapsody was rescinded. SoundExchange also promised not to take immediate legal action against webcasters who were still in negotiations. But in the meantime, the threat of large looming royalty payments has silenced some small webcasters.
Although NPR's request for a court-ordered stay on the new rates was denied, they have filed a formal court appeal, but hearings may not happen for another year or two. On Thursday, members of Congress introduced a bill postponing the new webcasting rates for another 60 days, but this failed to pass in time for the July 15 deadline.
So what does this mean for WFMU? While the details of SoundExchange's new webcasting rates for non-commercial stations are still unclear, WFMU will continue streaming. We hope that NPR and SoundExchange continue negotiating fair terms for public stations in the coming weeks. If that falls through, there's always the possibility of Congressional intervention (the Internet Radio Equality Act, more info at savenetradio.org), or an appeals hearing in the distant future. With luck, WFMU won't ever have to place a cap on our online audience.