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This argument is completely nuts, not to mention inconsistent. Why is KFOG's conventional broadcasting promotional, but its simultaneous Web stream not? The RIAA would argue that regular radio shouldn't be considered promotional either. "You don't get a car for free because you are driving around with a Ford decal," Marks says.
What's really happening here is that the RIAA is carrying its victory over Napster and digital downloading into the streaming radio arena. Its argument is that, since online signals are digital ones, they are therefore a threat to CD buying. Never mind that you can't burn a CD from a streaming radio signal, and often you can't even listen to a single song without annoying burps or farts. Somehow the CARP panel bought this crap, and now RIAA actually will start earning revenues from Internet radio that it cannot recoup from regular radio.
The next question might be, what will happen when regular radio signals go digital as well, which experts point out is the industry's next step. After decades spent fighting blank-tape manufacturers, students downloading free stuff on the Web and now Web radio, the RIAA may at last be able to squeeze money out of the people who help them the most: conventional radio. Bundy believes terrestrial radio will still be protected, digital or not. And both Chaitovitz and Marks say their organizations have no interest in sticking it to tiny Web radio enthusiasts. "We look forward to working with the hobbyists," Marks says.
Do any of you have visions of RIAA folks nestled on a rag rug with Uncle Mort and his iBook, helping him stream big band music? When the RIAA says "work with," it will probably be just like when the Germans "worked with" the Poles in '39, or when a goodfella "works with" a shopkeeper in the form of easy monthly payments. The RIAA's interests begin and end with the economic interests of the big record labels. What's most appalling is how willingly it hangs its arguments on the interests of the "musical creators" it so dearly fucks over in most other cases.
"There's a growing sense of public outrage," says Bill Goldsmith from KPIG. "It's such a black-and-white, David-and-Goliath type of thing. You've got these struggling baby Webcasters like me, and this great big monolithic group of multinational corporations on the other side." Goldsmith holds out the hope that public outcry will convince the panel to reverse its decision, even though the only people who can officially argue against it are those same entities involved in the original ruling. The public has no say, except to contact their congressmen and hope that they will lobby on their behalf.
But George Bundy is flat-out pessimistic about the May 21 deadline. "I think there is a lot of work to be done and not enough time. Unless the opposition moves quicker, it will get rubber-stamped."
For the rest of us, the party is almost over. Stations will be forced to charge listeners, or cover the costs through the sale of advertising (fat chance), or give up altogether. It's time to come to terms with the fact that most streaming radio will be a thing of the past.