Digital Radio: nice idea, shame about the fees

This is an excellent article in The Guardian by Wendy Grossman. The problem of webcasting and collecting agencies is gathering momentum as there is a meeting this week in Geneva at WIPO, where member states are negotiating the inclusion of webcasting and simulcasting into a new treaty on the protection of broadcasting organisations. Robin Gross of IP Justice has written a look at the proposals; and Pedro Canut has a detailed blog report of the meeting (in Spanish).

This is a difficult issue because it deals with the already complicated landscape of collecting agencies, but it is further entangled by the international aspect of webcasts and simulcasts. In most countries, radio stations have to pay license fees for broadcasting over the radio waves, with the exception of the United States, where radio playtime is considered promotion (a system that I personally like). The problem with webcasts is that collecting agencies are national, while the data could be listened in countries where there is no agreement, and where the station may not be licensed to broadcast. This generates a complex regulatory situation where there is no agreement with regards to how to solve it at international level. WIPO believes that this can be fixed with an international treaty, but the disagreement shown at the meeting in WIPO would lead me to believe that this may not happen.

I think that this could be an area for self-regulation. The problem is about the many (and often competing) collecting agencies. Perhaps they should sort their own house first.

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