WSJ: Convoluted royalty world confounds fans, including Prez

From today’s Wall Street Journal: “Even President Bush’s toughest critics would forgive him his confusion when, at a forum in Nashville, Tenn., last week, he was asked if he would support the payment of ‘a statutory royalty to the performing artists for radio and television airplay,’ in the process,’changing our laws to align with the rest of the world.’

“‘Help!’ the president gulped, to abundant laughter. ‘I have no earthly idea what you’re talking about,’…

“As music has spilled out onto the Web, so have disagreements about how to license it. The latest of what may be many such disputes took place last month, when an estimated 30,000 Internet radio stations held a ‘day of silence.’ They were protesting new royalty rates proposed by the Copyright Review Board, a panel of three judges charged by Congress with settling on rates that would be fair to both sides…

“The more immediate prospective change involves the issue with which Mr. Bush was confronted. It involves whether record labels and performers should be paid a royalty whenever their songs are aired on the radio…

“The broadcasters have justified the exemption by saying radio play increases sales. Labels and musicians respond that the Internet is changing all of the old rules about the economic realities of music, and they have begun a push to abolish the exemption. The question to President Bush was part of the new PR offensive

“The best any music fan can do as future disputes crop up — and they will — is to keep score of who is negotiating with whom and over what, and hope for the best.

Subscribers can read the entire article at the Wall Street Journal online.

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