I'm not usually one for activism. Through I follow the news and world events closer than most people, my inherent laziness generally trumps my outrage and prevents me from taking any serious action beyond offering a vague moral support for certain causes. But lately, I've been super pissed off about this bullshit internet radio royalty thing. Essentially the Copyright Royalty Board has decided to jack up the royalty fees charged to internet radio broadcasters. The model is as follows (from Wikipedia):
"The rates include a minimum fee of $500 (U.S.) per year, per channel with escalating fees for each song played. In 2006 (the decision is retroactive), the applicable fee would be $0.0008 per performance. Since a performance is defined as streaming one song to one listener, a webcaster with 10,000 listeners would pay 10,000 times the going rate for every streamed song. The fee increases 30 percent per year, which amounts to $0.0019 cents per song by 2010."
For an internet boradcaster like Live365 this means a roaytly fee increase from $1.4 million to between $7 million and $8 million a year. These rates are obscenely beyond what terrestrial and satellite radio stations pay. It is completely unbalanced and unfair, and with the rate hike being retroactive to January 1st 2006, this will instantly force most internet radio broadcasters to shut down. With terrestrial radio being so homogenized these days, internet radio is one of the few resources available to independent musicians for getting their material out, and one of the even fewer ways for music fans to find new artists that aren't being force fed to them by Clear Channel and MTV. My life has been personally enriched by using amazing sites like Pandora to find great albums by artists I never would have heard of otherwise, but Pandora and other sites like it will be extinct once these new royalty rates go into effect (July 15, 2007).
Finally I am worked up enough about an issue that I am willing to get off my fat, complacent ass and do, literally, the least I can do. So, for the last week I've been trying to contact my Senators (Barbra Boxer and Diane Feinstein) to ask that they support The Internet Radio Equality Act, S. 1353, which would reverse the Copyright Royalty Board's decision. The problem I am discovering is that Senators don't ever answer their phones. Not that I was expecting Babs or Di to answer the phones themselves, but apparently they don't even have interns to answer the phones for them. I've been calling for days now, at different times during business hours, and at both offices I get dumped into a hold system that warns me I will be disconnected if I am on hold for longer than 2 minutes. What the fuck? I care about this issue. I've got nothing else to do. I am willing to wait on hold for 7, even 10, minutes if need be. The system is actively working to make it harder for me to speak to my Senators regarding an issue about which I feel passionately. I finally work up the outrage to overcome my laziness and make the most basic effort at effecting change, and I am punished for it. This has been a painful civics lesson in the cold, uncaring reality of our so-called republic.
On the other side of the Capital building, when I called my Representative, Henry Waxman, someone picked up after two rings. I have a suspicion that it was Rep. Waxman himself. I was so shocked that I almost panicked and hung up like a twelve-year-old chickening out on a crank call, but I managed to pull it together and stammer through my request that Rep. Waxman support the house version of the Internet Radio Equality Act, H.R. 2060.
If you would like to learn more about the Internet Radio Equality Act, or otherwise join the fight to save internet radio, check out this site: Save Internet Radio. They have a lot of great info and news updates and even this handy page where you plug in your Zip Code and it will provide you with the phone numbers and emails for both of your Senators and your Representative. Not that these number will do you a lot of good, but it's better than doing nothing (barely).