TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Copyright royalties (was Pirate Radio Stations...)

Re: Copyright royalties (was Pirate Radio Stations...)

Neal McLain (
Wed, 11 Oct 2006 16:12:34 -0400

I wrote:

> Licensed non-commercial broadcast stations get a break
> for internet streaming if (and only if) the stream is
> concurrent with the broadcast. This exception allows WCPE
> (a non-commercial station owned by a non-profit
> corporation) to continue streaming. But WFMT (which
> holds a commercial license even though it's owned by a
> non-profit corporation) is subject to the full royalty
> fee. Which is why WFMT now charges internet listeners.

PAT wrote:

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Although WFMT chooses to charge
> internet listeners, most other classical stations do not access that
> charge. For example, KOSU/KOSN our classical music station here in
> southeast Kansas continues to stream totally free of any charge ...

KOSU holds a non-commercial broadcast license, and it's owned by a
non-profit entity (Oklahoma State University). So, like WCPE, it
falls under the exemption for licensed non-commercial broadcast
stations. It still incurs some copyright liability, but not nearly as
much as commercial licensees incur.

> ... and while they were operating, WNIB in Chicago likewise made no
> charge for their music. PAT]

Neither did WFMT, at the time.

The problem that WFMT now faces stems from the fact that it holds a
commercial broadcast license. As such, it's permitted to sell
advertising, but it's also liable for the full $0.0007-per-listener-
per-performance royalty fee. As I noted in my previous post, that may
not sound like much, but multiply the number of "performances" that a
commercial licensee broadcasts in one year by $0.0007 and you get some
idea of the cost involved. Assuming ten "performances" per hour, a
listener who listens four hours per day would generate a royalty fee
of about $10 per year. A listener who listens 24 hours per day would
generate a fee of about $61 per year.

In order to accurately calculate its annual copyright liability, the
station has to keep track of the instantaneous number of internet
listeners on a minute-by-minute basis. That takes a lot of storage

Add to that the cost of running the streaming operation itself
(internet access, administrative overhead), and the station incurs a
total liability of around $20 to $30 per internet listener per year.

Faced with these costs, commercial licensees have two choices: cover
the costs from advertising revenue, or charge for their internet
streams. Most classical stations now charge:

-- WFMT Chicago charges $60 per year for members of its Fine Arts
Circle" -- listeners who also pay $40 (or more) to support general
station operations.

-- WQXR New York has managed to stream its signal without charge (so
far), but it's apparently rethinking that approach. Its website
currently states "WQXR is close to concluding a complete evaluation of
our stream options, and will report on the results soon."

-- KING-FM Seattle offers its stream through's
"RadioPass" subscription service which costs $59.99 per year after a
14-day free trial.

costs if it still existed. I doubt that WNIB's advertising base would
have been able to support free streaming.

Of course, there are plenty of free classical streams from sources
outside the USA, where the DMCA doesn't apply. "Classical Live Online
Radio" offers an extensive compilation at

Neal McLain

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