RIAA sets Web royalty rate

Law intended to help educational sites

The Recording Industry Assn. of America has cut a deal to set the royalty rates for non-commercial Internet broadcasters under the Small Webcaster Settlement Act, which ensured that small Webcasters wouldn’t have to break the bank on royalties to the music biz.

Under the new rules, educational and other non-commercial Webcasting sites will have to pay anywhere from $200 to $500 annually for programs broadcast from 1998 to 2004, depending on their size and scope. Webcasters that transmit more than three channels of programs will pay for the overflow at the commercial rate.

In addition, Webcasters that send out more than 146,000 hours of programming a month will have to pay usage fees of around a fifth of a cent per performance, or between a fifth and a quarter of a cent per hour (depending on their format).

“This break allows college Webcasters with low-budget operations and small staffs to continue or begin streaming in a way that furthers students’ media experiences on campus,” said American Council on Education attorney Sheldon Steinbach.

Last November, Congress hurriedly passed the SWSA to break a logjam between the music biz and Webcasters, who were far apart in their notions of what royalty rates would be appropriate for the Web. In particular, lawmakers worried that the rates proposed by the RIAA could force many small Webcasters to close down entirely.