As the lame duck legislative session begins today, the webcasting community continues the fight to keep HR 5469 from passing in the Senate and becoming law. A year that started with the webcasting industry united in a common goal to work on the CARP (Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel) rates and develop reasonable, equitable legislation as an industry standard has ended with the entire U.S.-based webcasting community up in arms over a private deal negotiated between the RIAA (Recording Industry Artists of America) and VOW (Voice of Webcasters).
“There is nothing wrong with a group of individual webcasters sitting down at the table to negotiate a deal with the RIAA,” said Ann Gabriel, President of Webcaster Alliance and CEO of Las Vegas-based Gabriel Media. “Certainly they were entitled to try and seek relief from the October 20th retroactive rates deadline and were within their rights to do so. But when a private negotiation ends up being written into language for a Bill and then forced as a yolk around the neck of an entire industry which had no say in the matter, there is something terribly wrong with our legislative process.”
The webcasting industry at large watched in horror as an amended HR 5469 was passed through the House in early October. When initially introduced in late September by Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the one-paragraph Bill called for a 6-month stay in the imposed royalty rates collection on music broadcast over the Internet. The original version of 5469 was circulated, widely accepted and approved by both webcasters and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), which represents terrestrial Radio stations.
But before HR 5469 could be introduced on the House floor, the RIAA yelled foul, brought in the AFL-CIO to scuttle it and Sensenbrenner pulled it from the “rules suspension” session. Congressman Sensenbrenner then demanded the RIAA and VOW negotiate a deal. That privately negotiated deal then became the language of a new HR 5469, which ballooned into a 30-plus page piece of legislation considered by most in the webcasting industry to be a legal nightmare.
Gabriel and members of the Webcaster Alliance have spent the last several weeks producing “American Injustice: The Story of HR 5469,” an in-depth, multi-part series that covers the events surrounding HR 5469. The expose series combines insightful written analysis with audio interviews of leading members of the internet radio industry. It explores the people, technologies, laws and events that led up to the introduction of HR 5469, and the division it caused within the webcasting community.
Las Vegas-based Attorney David LeGrand of Hale Lane has also taken an interest in the webcasters plight in working to keep HR 5469 from passing the Senate. “This is a complex Bill with many aspects and it is imperative for us to have someone like David who is well-rounded and able to deal with all of the issues wrapped into this piece of legislation,” Gabriel said.
LeGrand’s extensive experience in corporate formations, financing, and taxation combined with his Internet and telecommunications-related legal background make him unique among lawyers in the United States and especially valuable as an advisor to the flourishing webcasting industry.
“Webcasting is an integral part of the Internet,” said LeGrand when asked about his association with the Webcaster Alliance. “I look forward to working with Webcaster Alliance in their efforts to establish the viability of and standards for webcasting now and in the future.”
“The story of HR 5469 has it all,” Gabriel concluded, “greed, scandal, betrayal, politics, lies and deception. Our hope is to bring it to the attention of the American public and the Legislators who truly didn’t realize what happened with this Bill and work with them to right the terrible wrong that was done in this case.”