The first commercial radio station to stream its programming live via the Web has quit, making good on threats that it would have to pull its Webcasts in the face of royalty fees.
Watsonville, Calif.-based KPIG called the decision to stop Webcasts of its FM broadcasts Thursday "a sad day in the cybersty" but said it hoped the decision was only temporary. The Web site will continue to offer copies of live recordings made in the station's studio and still will post a real-time playlist of songs.
Bill Goldsmith, KPIG's Web consultant, said the fees cost the station about $3,000 a month--too much to support an Internet operation that barely breaks even. "It's ridiculous," Goldsmith said of the fees. "There's not a single Webcaster online right now who's making enough to pay those fees."
However, Goldsmith said he hopes successful negotiations with copyright owners will have the Webcast up and running again within 30 days.
In June, copyright regulators set rates that require Web companies to pay .07 cent, or about a 14th of a cent, every time they play a song online for a single listener. Although the fees are just half the amount the labels had proposed, smaller radio stations and Web companies such as RealNetworks complained that the fees could threaten some businesses and severely hobble Web programming.
Smaller, independent Web radio stations have long protested new royalty charges, saying steep fees may make it impossible for them to continue and could lay the groundwork for a Web radio market consisting only of large companies that can afford to pay.
The decision by the Librarian of Congress is the result of a protracted battle that pitted the labels against Webcasters and smaller radio stations. Both sides had negotiated for years over the amount of the fees, which were required as the result of an entertainment industry-backed digital copyright law passed in 1998.
The advent of online radio has made it possible for millions of listeners to tune into stations that are well outside of their geographical area. KPIG in particular had established a reputation as a frisky alternative to vanilla, corporate-run radio stations.
After learning of the shutdown, people from Tulsa, Okla., to Alberta, Canada, posted messages to the Squeals section of KPIG's Web site, pledging their support for the station's efforts to resume Webcasting. KPIG joins a long list of Webcasters that have turned off their streams in the face of the fees.