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If You Can't Beat 'Em, Scream At 'Em

NMC/Radio and Records eChart main column as published in the 4/19/02 issue of R&R The CARP issues were all over the floor of the NAB last week, generating comments from webcasters there to learn from the pros, and pros concerned that the math involved in the proposed CARP fee structure may not be anywhere near realistic.

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The overwhelming sentiment is that the CARP panel is detached from reality, and that if these fees are imposed, imminent death of certain popular online channels would be the result. Stations would have not only an unbearable amount of fees going forward, and a mere 30 days to come up with the cash for all fees going back over three years, another specter has been raised by the Electronic Frontier Foundation: listener privacy.

Fred von Lohmann, one of the lead attorneys at the EFF, complained that the new record keeping requirements that CARP places on the table are overly burdensome. After all, he says, when one listens to the radio, one does so in relative anonymity. He points out that the number of data points required to be tracked by webcasters (and you, too, by the way: broadcasters are not exempt from this requirement) is pretty heavy: everything from typical title, album and genre info all the way to geographic, time-of-day and unique user ID and dozens of other classifications for each and every cut played on webcast music channels.

This is a land grab by the copyright holders, says von Lohmann, with the labels wanting to invade our privacy for data mining purposes, so they've decided to jump into the CARP controversy, adding their comments to the written and vocal hailstorm that the Copyright Office has been receiving since making the preliminary recommendations.

There is a certain desperation in the tone of parties opposed to the fee structure. "If these fees go through, that will be the end of WOLF-FM.com," stated Steve Wolf, owner of one of the Net's most popular Shoutcast channels. His take on the CARP math bears out his fears, but the RIAA disagreed with and pooh-poohed the math in some articles, including this column and the New York Times. Although the web page on the riaa.com site uses words like "misinformation" and tries to calm the fears of webcasters by pointing out that the labels really want them to succeed, they muddy the waters a bit by calling into question the audience projections of some sites and their channels and the money they would pay.

We in radio know the difference between AQH and cume. In the case of CARP, it doesn't matter. If you've got a thousand listeners per hour on average, it doesn't matter to the CARP fee schedule how long those listeners have been logged in and listening, as the fee structure is based on individual performance numbers. The RIAA responded to our inquiries on this issue by saying that they would review the language on the page to clarify their stance.

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