NPR appeals to D.C. court

Radio network, trade org seek help

National Public Radio and the principal trade organization representing online audio and video companies will ask a federal appeals court to stay a copyright royalty rate hike skedded to take effect in July.

NPR and the Digital Media Assn. are expected to file separate but supporting requests with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia today seeking suspension of the July 15 deadline recently mandated by the Copyright Royalty Board for enacting a new online music royalty rate and calculating system.

A group of small commercial radio Webcasters also will file a similar request.

CRB ruled in April that Internet radio royalty rates must be calculated based on the number of times songs are played in relation to the size of a Webcaster’s audience. Because many Webcasters don’t have the mechanisms or technology to make such a calculation, a net dollar amount for the new rates has been impossible to specify.

But the Digital Media Assn. has estimated that the increase will be at least 300% above current rates, possibly as much as 1,200%. Org has said that the new rates “are expected to bankrupt thousands” of Webcasters.

NPR, the Digital Media Assn. and others are hoping the appeals court will ultimately overturn the CRB ruling, but that may not happen before the July 15 deadline — hence the immediate request to suspend the deadline until the court can consider the entire ruling.

“Unless a stay is granted, many Webcasters will shut down July 15, when the new royalty rates go into effect,” Digital Media Assn. exec director Jonathan Potter said in a statement. “While our appeal moves through the legal process, we implore the court to grant a stay and prevent unnecessary industry carnage.”

NPR filed on behalf of the entire public radio system, which streams music online. NPR spokeswoman Andi Sporkin said the CRB ruling effectively imposes commercial royalty rates onto public Webcasters.

“The ill-conceived CRB decision and its impending deadline are causing irreparable harm to stations across the system by diminishing their service to the public,” Sporkin said.

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