Net set goes to bat

MTVi steps up to plate in Web royalty dispute

WASHINGTON — MTVi Group is scheduled to headline today’s installment of a protracted U.S. Copyright Office proceeding that will determine how much broadcasters and Webcasters must pay in royalties to labels and artists for music streamed on the Internet.

MTVi Radio veep Brad Porteus is among the first witnesses being presented by Webcasters and broadcasters, who are at bitter odds with the recording biz over the new royalty rate.

It’s a feud that has pit the major labels against broadcasters such as MTVi parent company Viacom, Clear Channel Communications, Infinity Broadcasting, the National Religious Broadcasters, Salem Communications and Univision.

The Recording Industry Assn. of America and artists were first up to bat in presenting their case before a three-member arbitration panel appointed by the copyright office to resolve the issue.

Now, broadcasters and Webcasters are getting their turn.

Ongoing deliberation

Testimony will continue until mid-September, though the actual new rate won’t be determined until the winter or spring.

Internet ventures generally have argued that the RIAA is trying to control the market by setting the royalty rate too high.

Major labels and artists, however, counter that the Internet represents a critical new revenue stream, and don’t want to repeat what they say is the mistake made when radio stations were exempted from having to pay sound recording royalties and required to pay them only to music publishers and songwriters. Bigger fish

The RIAA also has pointed out that some of the broadcasters and Webcasters involved in the dispute — such as Clear Channel or Viacom — are hardly small fry. In a strange twist, AOL Time Warner is actually on both sides of the U.S. Copyright proceeding. Warner Music Group testified for the RIAA; AOL Music, which focuses on Internet distribution, is scheduled to testify for Webcasters.

Congress determined several years ago that things should be different in the digital age, passing legislation that established the new Internet royalty.

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