DCPolitics

End Music Monopoly

INTERNET RADIO FAIRNESS ACT WOULD UNLEASH “THE SPIRIT OF RADIO” By Bill Wilson || “One likes to believe in the freedom of music,” Rush’s Geddy Lee crooned in the 1980 hit ‘The Spirit of Radio,’ “but glittering prizes and endless compromises shatter the illusion of integrity.” These words are proving eerily…

INTERNET RADIO FAIRNESS ACT WOULD UNLEASH “THE SPIRIT OF RADIO”

Bill Wilson

By Bill Wilson || “One likes to believe in the freedom of music,” Rush’s Geddy Lee crooned in the 1980 hit ‘The Spirit of Radio,’ “but glittering prizes and endless compromises shatter the illusion of integrity.”

These words are proving eerily prophetic as the United States Congress debates a piece of legislation aimed at expanding the “freedom of music” on the Internet — while at the same time attempting to break up a foreign-owned monopoly that’s inhibiting innovation and expansion in the broader American marketplace.

U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) is holding hearings this month on the Internet Radio Fairness Act, a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). This legislation seeks to end unfair, anti-competitive royalty rate discrimination that’s currently being practiced by the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) — an unaccountable Washington bureaucracy that’s in the pocket of a trio of foreign-owned record labels.

These three labels collectively control roughly 80 percent of the music that’s played over America’s airwaves — and for years they have relied on the CRB to impose music rate structures that guarantee the preservation of this monopoly. While Chaffetz’s legislation isn’t perfect, it would go a long way toward eliminating the corporate cronyism that lies at the heart of this inherently anti-competitive arrangement.

First, Chaffetz’s bill makes the constitutionally dubious CRB more accountable to the public by requiring that the U.S. Senate confirm its appointees. More importantly, the legislation would compel the board to reassess royalty rates paid by Internet radio providers like Pandora, TuneIn and IHeartRadio, bringing their costs more in line with fees paid by cable and satellite providers.

Chaffetz’s legislation acknowledges that the current discriminatory rate system inhibits growth and innovation — stifling the delivery of new music to the public and inhibiting the ability of new artists to find audiences independent of the three powerful record labels.

Chaffetz’s pro-free market credentials are unimpeachable. Earlier this year, he led the fight in the U.S. House against the Orwellian “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA), which in his words was nothing but an effort to “rewrite the current laws regarding the Internet and remake it into a place where innovation no longer happens.”

For his efforts, Chaffetz was recently hailed as a “staunch advocate for free enterprise.”

But not everyone is happy with Chaffetz’s bid to break up the foreign music monopoly. In fact, one prominent conservative is attempting to portray Chaffetz’s legislation in a distinctly anti-free market light.

“When the government sets the rate for music, it is enacting price controls, in opposition to what should be the agenda of a Congress that supports the market economy,” Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist said recently, adding that rates “should be allowed to emerge according to supply and demand.”

Norquist is referring to the CRB’s so-called “willing buyer/willing seller” standard — which in actuality is a “here’s what we charge/take it or leave it” standard that relies on government to artificially raise rates. The problem with Norquist’s so-called “market” solution is that it perpetuates the unchecked power of the existing foreign-owned monopoly to decide which music distribution systems live — and which ones die. That in turn dictates which bands break through, and which ones don’t.

Rather than organically promoting supply and demand within the free market, the current system is based on the government imposing an unfair and discriminatory burden on one segment of the economy so that another might benefit.

Grover Norquist and his group have helped foster free markets and liberty on many occasions, but in this instance they are clearly lobbying against the “market economy” and in favor of a handful of special interests hell-bent on preserving their anti-competitive position. Meanwhile, far from imposing “price controls,” Chaffetz’s bill merely seeks to impose checks and balances on a government board that has been manipulating the market for years.

In other words, Chaffetz would substitute market-based fairness for the rigged government methods currently being used to set these royalties. It’s also worth noting that the so-called “market” solution advocated by Norquist does not include anti-trust or anti-competitive restraints against price-fixing — the very thing he accuses Chaffetz and his allies of pushing.

The Internet has become a vibrant component of virtually every marketplace on earth — removing barriers, expanding consumer choices and enhancing economic competitiveness. True free market conservatives believe that its competitive spirit — and the “Spirit of Radio” — should be embraced, not unfairly constrained.

Bill Wilson is president of Americans for Limited Government. Follow him on Twitter @BillWilsonALG.  This column – reprinted with permission – originally appeared on The Daily Caller website.

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6 comments

Frank Pytel November 26, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Frack that. As soon as I read “Make the board accountable… blah blah” Another bureacracy. Frack That. Close the tards down.

Close all federal bureacracies down, excepting the US Military. All of them. Period.

End of the problems at the federal level. End of the Deficits. End of States rights arguments. End of all the BS.

Americans for limited government. Just what is he advocating anyway. I don’t see a statement saying “Shut it down. (the only one worth talking about” or anything else except to bag on someone.

-1

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Smirks November 26, 2012 at 2:57 pm

SOPA/PIPA are inevitable laws that will eventually be passed in some kind of variation. Make no mistake, Congress is drooling over giving the various industries behind this bullshit exactly what they are demanding just to get a taste of those sweet, sweet campaign contributions. Hell, they’re practically jumping over themselves at the opportunity to lube up America’s ass on this.

The only thing that delays (not stops) this movement is people being informed of what these fuckers are trying to do. Tons of people switched to a “no” vote just because a bunch of sites, Google included, blacked out in protest over it, and boy did that ever piss off the likes of Chris Dodd.

Congress doesn’t serve the people, and just about every last one of the fuckers in it should be made unemployed for it.

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Smirks November 26, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Keep in mind, Congress doesn’t need to fix any kind of legislation to appease the people, they just need to “fix” it so that it doesn’t spark the ire of a few select businesses that can always reach for the megaphone to bark out complaints against the bill. The blackouts are what gave it national attention, take that away and the complicit media corporations will remain silent as Congress gleefully passes yet another travesty of a bill and thrust it upon the unsuspecting American people.

“But you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing. It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your States as well as in the Federal Government.” — Andrew Jackson

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Jess November 26, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Artists and creators are entitled to earn income from their work, just as any other individual. Plenty of independent artists suffer at the hand of online thieves. It’s convenient to demonize big media, etc. but if you look at the facts you’ll see that it’s the little guys who suffer and who are most vulnerable to content theft.

BTW, the blackouts were orchestrated by tech companies that fund numerous astroturf entities to protect their own interests. Companies like Google are anti-copyright, yet first in line at the courthouse to protect their IP via patent and trademark law.

Either way you slice it, against SOPA or for it, much of the “debate” was ginned up by big bucks and industry.

The people whose livelihoods are threatened by content theft are left twisting in the win by those who buy into the tech-generated memes that such legislation would “break” the internet when actually all tech cares about is not breaking its pocketbook.

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9" November 27, 2012 at 4:46 pm

The US already has a monopoly on bad taste,and this Wilson weirdo is your typical Rush’ fan.Republicans should stay away from music…

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Booyah December 10, 2012 at 4:41 pm

“Artists and creators are entitled to earn income from their work, just as any other individual. Plenty of independent artists suffer at the hand of online thieves. It’s convenient to demonize big media, etc. but if you look at the facts you’ll see that it’s the little guys who suffer and who are most vulnerable to content theft.”

Bullshit. Artists who don’t suck use EXPOSURE gotten by the viral marketing of downloads then make money TOURING to cater to their fan base.

Want a highly successful example dating from long before the Internet? How about the Grateful Dead. They even let tapers connect to their sound boards at concerts, and their following over decades spent plenty of money. Since almost all their publicity in the early years was what we’d call “viral” today, tapes helped expose the band to people who would otherwise never have seen them in concert. I spent money to see them at Radio City Music Hall because I’d heard copied “bootleg” tapes. (Back then a “server” was a reel-to-reel tape recorder used to “rip” albums to Compact Cassette.)

Or have some GaGa, whose whole act IS marketing (herself):

“[Y]ou know how much you can earn off touring, right? Big artists can make anywhere from $50 millon for one cycle of two years’ touring. Giant artists make upwards of $100 million. Make music–then tour. It’s just the way it is today,” Gaga said. (Source: Techdirt)”

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