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Saturday, 22 June 2002

As some of you know, I have a weekly radio show on a local community/college radio station.  We’ve been Webcasting for a while now.  So yes, this is going to be another rant against the recent ruling of the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel (or CARP; feel free to rearrange letters as you like).

It isn’t necessarily the fees that I mind so much, although they obviously could be ruinous to any highly popular Webcaster.  They also don’t make a lot of sense, since we don’t have to pay anyone to broadcast our air signal to (potentially) about two million people in the greater Cleveland metropolitan area.  No, what I find so objectionable are the parts that regulate what you can play in a given period of time.  For example (and thanks to Jim Gilliland for pointing me to this information), per Section 114(j)(13): In any three hour period, [a Webcaster] may not play more than:

  • three songs from the same record, two consecutively
  • four songs by the same artist, three consecutively
  • four songs from the same box set (even if “various artists”), three consecutively

On my most recent show, as it happens, I played a number of album sides and live recordings.  When you’re a non-profit, non-commercial radio station staffed by community volunteers, you can do that kind of thing.  My playlist included:

  • Duke Ellington: “Small Band Shorts (1928-1935)” – Side 1 (soundtrack to the short film Black and Tan Fantasy)
  • Louis Prima: “1944” – Side 1 (recording of a live broadcast from 1944)
  • “From Spirituals To Swing” – Side 3 (concert recordings of various artists at Carnegie Hall, 1938-1939)
  • Benny Goodman: “On the Air (1938-1939)” – Disc 1, Tracks 2-11 (recordings of radio broadcasts from 1938-1939)

Under the new CARP rules, I spent two hours violating the law with that show.  The same would be true of my D-Day special, which draws fairly heavily on the compilation “Swing Out To Victory.”  If I can’t come up with enough war-themed recordings on different records or compilations, then I’ll have to discontinue the D-Day special, which has become an annual tradition and always draws appreciative calls from listeners.  Ditto for my occasional broadcasts of the first Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington concerts at Carnegie Hall.  History?  Eh, who needs it?

Of course, all this becomes moot if we stop Webcasting.  So we have a choice: interesting and diverse music or worldwide reach.  One gets the feeling that the media conglomerates, who obviously chose reach over diversity, are trying to impose that same choice on the rest of us.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for honoring the rights of artists, and seeing that they’re fairly compensated for their work.  The CARP ruling isn’t the way to do it.  For that matter, neither are the contracts offered by media conglomerates—but I suppose that’s a whole different story.

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