The RIAA issued me a warning based on a previous radio playlist that featured all Missy [Elliot], all the time. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which was passed by congress in 1998, was a hastily thrown together measure (in my opinion) which aimed to protect the music industry from the impending apocalypse. While some parts of the law seem reasonable, other aspects went somewhat overboard to protect the interests of the industry, before folks even knew what would be developed, invented or what half the terms actually meant.
In my case the law forbids streaming “radio” that features more than 4 tracks by any one artist in a three-hour period. My guess is that they may have confused streaming with downloading — in the same way that people often confuse downloading with file sharing. They are afraid that even if it’s not downloadable somehow if a fan knows there will be 3 Missy songs at a given time they can prepare their gear and tape them. The assumption being that sale is lost. [I’ve been informed that the fear is less sensible than that — it is that if you know you can hear a specific artist whenever you want, then the reasoning is you would never buy their records.]
Back in the day I used my boom box to tape things off the radio all the time — that’s how I found out about music I didn’t know about, and eventually I not only bought those records, but ended up promoting them, too. Which made a fair amount of money for some record labels — but not for me. Not complaining, though.
So, we have one wrong assumption piled on top of another.
Is there a higher licensing fee I could pay to allow me to do this? (I currently pay a statutory fee to stream this stuff.) Is there a reason a radio station can play Springsteen ‘round the clock but I can’t stream Missy Elliot? Answer: You CAN pay for this, Dave. However, you would have to license every song separately, and pay for each one too, instead of as a lump sum, as you do now.
For example, KCRW can feature a single artist in their broadcasts, but can’t post those shows online. Terrestrial (broadcast) radio pays publishing fees, but not performance royalties — a holdover from radio being viewed as a promotional tool. Streaming radio is not? Huh?
From Lawrence Lessig’s book Free Culture, citing an estimate: “...if an Internet radio station distributed ad-free popular music” — as mine does — “to ten thousand listeners, twenty-four hours a day, the total artist fees that radio station would owe would be over $1 million a year. A regular radio station broadcasting the same content would pay no equivalent fee.”