Recent royalty hikes on internet radio broadcasts have lit a fire of hate under the hot little buns of…NPR? Yes, National Public Radio is pissed. From a statement from the Communication VP of NPR Andi Sporkin (emphasis added):

“This is a stunning, damaging decision for public radio and its commitment to music discovery and education, which has been part of our tradition for more than half a century. Public radio’s agreements on royalties with all such organizations, including the RIAA, have always taken into account our public service mission and non-profit status. These new rates, at least 20 times more than what stations have paid in the past, treat us as if we were commercial radio – although by its nature, public radio cannot increase revenue from more listeners or more content, the factors that set this new rate. Also, we are being required to pay an internet royalty fee that is vastly more expensive than what we pay for over-the-air use of music, although for a fraction of the over-the-air audience.

Keep reading it gets meaner…

“This decision penalizes public radio stations for fulfilling their mandate, it penalizes emerging and non-mainstream musical artists who have always relied on public radio for visibility and ultimately it penalizes the American public, whose local station memberships and taxes will be necessary to cover the millions of dollars that will now be required as payment. On behalf of the public radio system, NPR will pursue all possible action to reverse this decision, which threatens to severely reduce local stations’ public service and limit the reach of the entire music community. NPR will begin on Friday, March 16 by filing a petition for reconsideration with the CRB panel, the first step in this process. We ask that the online royalties be returned to their historic arrangement and that public radio can continue to provide its vital service to music discovery.”

Can we get a “Team NPR” T-shirt? —MEGHANN MARCO

UPDATE: Reader Darren made “Team NPR” shirts on Cafepress. He says he’s charging the lowest amount, so only Cafepress makes a profit. No money goes to NPR, it’s just funny. We thank him for his hilarity.

NPR may lead fight against Internet radio royalty rate hike [Chicago Tribune]


Edit Your Comment

  1. healthdog says:

    Go NPR! Stupid RIAA – you should have tried this scumbag move *before* the Democrats took control.

  2. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Excellent. I’m a big NPR fan, and I’m glad to see somebody stand up to the RIAA. Most of the music I listen to through Internet radio is either world music or “chill” music..neither of which is available on commercial radio anywhere. I also use it to listen to public radio broadcasts from nearby states that are too weak to be received by aerial.

    It’s pretty clear to me that all the RIAA is trying to do is kill off any other source of non-revenue producing music. I’m sure they’d be thrilled to kill off radio as we know if it weren’t owned by huge media giants like Clear Channel.

  3. esqdork says:

    Words fail me to communicate how much I hate the RIAA.

  4. kaycee says:

    I’ve been hearing about this on my favorite internet radio station, If this decision stands, it will put all the independent web stations out of business – or they’ll be forced to move out of the U.S. It’s patently unfair, because the royalies the CRB has ordered are many times higher than what is paid by regular broadcast stations.

  5. MrWashy says:

    Shame on you, RIAA. Were the funds running a bit low? Was there no baby around to try to extor… err… coerc… ummm… litigate candy from?

    Seriously, I love my NPR and have no problem supporting it. These past years, though have been lean ones for some of the smaller NPR stations. How does the RIAA expect them to continue offering excellent quality programming to those who don’t find what they want on commercial radio? Apparently non-commercial radio and the public interest is no concern of theirs.

  6. LAGirl says:

    can i change my vote for Exxon to a vote for the RIAA?

    also: NPR rules!

  7. rten says:

    I’ve gone the the library and found a generous collection of BMG music membership “postage paid business reply postcards” to pull out of about 100 magazines. I pulled each one out and wrote “RIAA” on each one and dropped them in the mail. BMG must pay 26 cents for each postcard I mail. Anyone else who likes this, go to your library and start mailing those BMG membership postcards.

  8. royal72 says:

    why petition? just don’t use any music from the riaa and offer to play independent music instead. the sooner these assholes don’t make anymore money, the sooner we can all laugh when we drive by one of these sorry execs peddling for money on the side of the road… “will market your music for 90% of the profits”

  9. bluebuilder says:

    We need more mainstream, respected organizations (especialy non-profit ones) taking a swing at these issues that threaten our society’s development.

    GO NPR

  10. mantari says:

    CONSUMERIST! I repeat my comments from the last RIAA article:

    Why on Earth does The Consumerist still call them by the name they want to be called by, the RIAA? If Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, and Apple formed a trade group to perform highly negative PR acts… would you keep on blaming the trade group, and not the people behind it?

    Get with it, Consumerist! Call the recording industry for what they really are. Bad PR means nothing to the RIAA. They exist to absorb negative goodwill. In fact, it helps them go after people if they look like a bad guy.

    But it would totally cripple the people that the RIAA shields. Stop using their language!

  11. katewrath says:

    How would I even know to buy music if I didn’t hear it on “Morning Becomes Eclectic”?

    Hell, my entire musical taste has been shaped by the radio playlists of my early adolescence. Without radio, I probably would have spent all that money on cigarettes or porn.

    Yes, brilliant idea. Shut down the one remaining outlet for your consumers to find your product so they can decide to pay you money for it.

    Well, but then, we do see this all the time–movie studios charging us to watch trailers, for example. No more free peaks at “Wild Hogs” for us!

    And of course, the way all newstand magazines and books are sold in opaque polybags. Ha, thought you’d sneak a peak at the April Men’s Health, punk? Think again! If you want to read “Prey” so badly, pay for it!

    High time, I say, that the good people at RIAA shut down this open piracy of their content.

  12. huginn says:

    I’m reminded of the movie “Merlin” where in order to defeat the evil witch, all the people in the land simply needed to ‘forget’ the evil for it to lose it’s power. So no matter what evil, the witch did, everyone just refused her existence, and she had no power.

    How I wish this were true here…. How I wish.

  13. ZonzoMaster says:


  14. lindyman77 says:

    @dwayne_dibbly: I agree Clear Channel = RIAA. I hate that mainstream drivel they churn out hour after hour. Sometimes I think I can actually see people’s brains liquifying when listening to one of their stations.

  15. SexCpotatoes says:

    It’s like Payola! But in reverse!

  16. dancing_bear says:

    I would like to declare March 16 “Fill up a DVD with MP3s and Give it Away Day.”

  17. Wally East says:

    @royal72: I agree, NPR should start looking into using music from non-RIAA artists. However, NPR is also right to be enraged. For example, can you imagine an interview with a musician but not hearing any music?

  18. kpfeif says:

    Great. The RIAA makes one more vain money grab while going down. Let’s face it – the music companies aren’t long for this world. Their business model is failing, and it won’t be long until they fail, as well.

    Oh yeah – “Before the Democrats took control?” Who’s the RIAA? Music companies. Who are the music company’s bread and butter? Recording artists.
    Who do recording artists vote for?

  19. TechnoDestructo says:

    The RIAA (which, you pedantic dicks, can pretty much stand in for all its member companies, and in legal matters often DOES) doesn’t WANT NPR, or anyone, to help in the process of music discovery. They want as few bands as possible to be discovered, because they make more money selling 5 million copies of 20 CDs than they make selling 50,000 copies of 20,000 CDs, even if they’re paying them a hundred times what they pay the little guys.
    They want us all to listen to Linkin Park and whoever the fuck this year’s American Idol is or whatever the flavor of the month is.

  20. dwarf74 says:

    I pledged to my NPR station a few months back. I’ve never been more satisfied with that decision.

    It’s like my favorite people are punching my least favorite people right in the throat.

    Anyways, folks – if you don’t already donate to your local NPR affiliate, I’d encourage you to do so.

  21. Cris says:

    I have to admit, I’ve been pretty apathetic towards the whole RIAA thing so far, but this really gets my blood boiling – shows like This American Life are great because they weave stories together through use of music, audio tracks from video and sounds, and because they’re available as podcasts. I applaud NPR for fighting this decision.

    What’s ironic is the RIAA’s current attempt to drop the royalties paid to artists while, at the same time, raising royalties paid by licensees.

    As I pointed out elsewhere, it’s important to remember the RIAA isn’t a company, it’s a trade group representing the recording industry. The most notable members of the RIAA include Sony-BMG, Universal, Warner and EMI, responsible for around 82% of the world music sales in 2005. The sooner we start referring to the RIAA by it’s label-members, the sooner people start becoming aware of who controls their access to entertainment.

  22. Mr. Gunn says:

    Can we get a callout on the position the various candidates facing election take?

    How does Obama stack up re:copyright/copywrong issues?

  23. Theseus says:

    If these RIAA fascists threaten my access to Marketplace and This American Life with their pricing, I swear I will declare jihad.

  24. robbie says:

    The royalty hike was handed down by the Copyright Royalty Board, but the other side(s) has/have 15 or 30 days to appeal the decision. I hope they did this or plan to do it like… now. Only the parties involved can appeal the decision.

    Did anyone else read the 2005 case summary? [Docket No. 2005-1 CRB DTRA]. The Copyright Royalty Judges rejected a series of criticisms of the current per-song-per-user rate proposal–rejections all based on the fact that they do not offer compelling evidence against the testimony of Michael Pelcovits, an economist working for a lobbying group. Problem is, his testimony was based on a theoretical marketplace–yes, theoretical–that made assumptions about the substitutability of both interactive and non-interactive webcasting for traditional media purchasing. The results are, to me, a series of gross miscalculations about the demand for music when comparing webcasts (even interactive forms) to traditional music purchases.

    It seems they grossly overestimate not only the amount users are willing to pay for the music they listen to, but more importantly, the amount they would listen to music in different formats. Whereas you might listen to Pandora all day in the background, you certainly would rather NOT listen to it at all than pay some sort of pro-rated amount for all of that music. In addition, while per-user data is available for webcasts in a way that is out of the question for traditional broadcasting and thus offers a way to more closely measure the amounts that should be paid to copyright holders, it doesn’t answer any questions about user experience:
    skipping songs, tuning out, etc. Can you imagine trying to price CD so that they cost nothing but you paid every time you listened to part a song? That’s basically what they’re trying to do in the hypothetical marketplace they are using to construct the new rates.

    The Judges rejected some counter proposals (flat rates) because they offer similar–not alternative–methods of paying royalties that result in the same amount of music listened to for less money, and other counter proposals (revenue percentages) because they are less accurate than paying fees on a per-user basis, given that the user data is (sort of) available. They categorically throw out these proposals because they do not offer compelling evidence to overturn the Pelcovits testimony. I think it’s ridiculous to have relied on his case as the benchmark in the first place.

    Call one of the parties in this case! Make sure they are appealing!

  25. Mike Tuttle says:

    I have been a fan of and advocate of independent and unsigned music for years. The trouble is finding good stuff. That’s why it is so difficult to wean people off radio. We keep going back because it is easy. Most of the indie music websites are just *piles* of stuff uploaded or linked by the bands themselves. A lot of it really stinks, and the bands are long-gone by the time I hear the sample they posted.

    (Not trying to blatantly promote my own site here, but it is relevant to the topic.)

    I started to help people find good independent music. I filter through all that stuff and regularly post and podcast music and videos by unknown bands that are really very good. These folks could hold their own against most of the “signed” bands out there.

    I am looking for other sites like mine: filtered, well-organized content. I honestly haven’t found any. Any suggestions? (feel free to email: skypiecesradio -at- gmail -dot- com)

  26. Verifex says:

    To show your support, you should link to the NPR shop for apparel. Go to to support them.

  27. Yogielow says:

    What on earth has gotten into these people. NPR is my ONLY radio station. I pay $100 a year to support them. If I could I would give them more. NPR is the only intresting and emtertaining radio station on the aid. Clear Channel and RIAA be damned.

  28. underpants says:

    I know how liberal broadcasters will respond, but I am curious how will Christian web radio streamers like will respond? Will they give their tithe to their god AND the RIAA?

  29. PO8 says:

    Given the history of NPR, don’t be surprised if they get an exemption from the onerous web broadcasting tax—for NPR. The organization has a long history of viewing all other non-commercial radio as “competitors”; for example, they were key players in phasing out the low-power licenses of college stations in the 1980s.

    Whoever wrote this legislation really screwed up. They could have had NPR on their side from the beginning. Now they’ll have to make nice with them and patch it up. If we’re lucky, that’ll also mean a break for independent webcasters. But I doubt we’ll be that lucky.

  30. brianary says:

    I think I got censored!

  31. asherchang says:

    $15 a shirt goes to cafe press?

  32. Nutmeg7 says:

    So, which NPR shows does this affect? Are the short musical interludes in All Things Considered & Morning Edition brief enough to be covered under any sort of fair use clause? All Songs Considered is only unsigned artists, so it isn’t affected, correct?

    Has NPR spoken about this on any of their shows? I don’t remember hearing about it…

  33. Trai_Dep says:

    The music labels are simply brilliant at slitting the throat of their golden goose for myopic, poorly thought out reasons.

    They killed FM radio (indirectly). Satellite radio’s a failure. Promo value of both these is negligible (remember when DJs used to tell you what artists just played?).

    The one technology that lets fans hear new music that lists artist and songs, they want to nuke. Sounds like bittorrent is the only way to explore new music now. Great job, RIAA!

  34. mmmmna says:

    Ok, here we are 3 years after, maybe someone could apply an edit to this article (circulating via Stumbleupon) where we can see any followup articles?