As expected, a Senate version of the Internet Radio Equality Act was introduced today as a companion to the House bill of the same name. The bills would vacate the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) decision setting webcaster rates for sound recordings, throwing out the rates for all webcaster regardless of their size. Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., introduced the bill.

In March, after a two-year proceeding that included a trial, the CRB set the 2006-2010 compulsory-license royalty rates that Webcasters and simulcasters must pay to perform recordings on non-interactive Web sites (section 114 of the Copyright Act).

In their 115-page opinion, the judges set commercial Webcaster and simulcaster rates ranging from .08 cents per stream in 2006 increasing to .19 cents per stream in 2010, with a minimum payment of $500 per channel or station per year. Non-commercial Webcaster and simulcaster rates were a flat fee of $500 per channel or station unless their streams exceed a certain number of average tuning hours, then they would have to pay commercial rates
beyond that point.

Many small and noncommercial Webcasters were gravely concerned that they would be put out of business at these rates. Some of them are expected to appeal the decision.

"Our bill is about standing up for folks ranging from a small webcaster in a basement in Corvallis to an innovative startup in Beaverton to a new band trying to be heard in Portland to a huge music fan in Coos Bay," Wyden said in a statement. "Keeping Internet radio alive is part of a broader issue that is important to me -- keeping the e-commerce engine running by preventing discrimination against it."

"I am alarmed by the recent Copyright Royalty Board decision and the effect it will have on Internet radio -- especially small webcasters with limited revenue streams," Brownback added in the statement. "I am hopeful that with this bipartisan legislation Internet radio will continue to flourish."

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