ONLINE ROYALTIES SPELL TROUBLE FOR INTERNET RADIO

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By Lauren Strapagiel

Internet radio stations like Ryerson’s SPIRITlive could soon be forced to pay royalties for the music they play if a proposed tariff passes.

Currently, creating an internet radio station and playing your music collection online doesn’t cost a dime in Canada.

But there are two proposed tariffs working their way through the legal system that would start charging webcasters for the music they use.

Gabe Knox is a fourth year radio and television arts student who hosts The More Proof Podcast which airs live on SPIRITlive (put on by fourth year RTA students) Fridays at 8 p.m., playing dance music by the likes of MSTRKRFT and Switch.

“We can play whatever we want, which is the cool thing about internet radio,” said Knox. He adds that if the tariffs were passed, “it would probably mean we’d have to start fundraising.” Knox said the fees come at a bad time for SPIRITlive, which will be making the switch to a new studio on the third floor of the Rogers Communications Centre.

Because internet radio currently falls under a legal grey area in Canada, SPIRITlive’s programs do not have to pay royalty fees on the music they play. A royalty on internet radio exists in the U.S., where it was approved last March with a great amount of controversy.

In Canada, the push for royalties is led by The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), who represent music composers and publishers. SOCAN has had its Tariff 22 in the system since 1996, but so far only the first half has been enacted into law.

Since the tariff is dated from 1996, it is possible that webcasters will be charged retroactively. Godbout says it is unlikely that smaller, non-commercial stations like SPIRITlive will be hit with these back charges, but she adds “you never know.”

A second tariff has also been proposed for 2009 by the Neighbouring Right Collective of Canada, which represents performers and their record labels. Should both these tariffs be enacted into law by the Copyright Board of Canada with their current fee structure, SPIRITlive will be paying a minimum of $150 per month.

Those who record podcasts, like Knox, dodged one bullet however. Back on May 20, 2008, the NRCC changed their position on podcasting. “NRCC no longer intends to seek remuneration for podcasting in this proposed tariff covering Simulcasting and Webcasting,” the tariff was changed to read.

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