The Digital Millennium Act of 1998, which states that the recording industry and artists should be compensated for music played over the Internet, uses completely backward logic – it penalizes small, non-profit stations like WRGW, but asks nothing of large, for-profit radio stations. The government and record industries are putting undue financial pressure on college stations whose broadcasts are of lower quality and directed to a smaller audience than traditional radio stations.
Radio stations do not pay fees to the record industry for traditional broadcasts. They can play any song for free under the assumption that it is free publicity for the artists and the record labels. Small stations like WRGW, which broadcast exclusively over the internet, however, will be forced to pay for every song played and for every student listening.
The law effectively punishes college stations for becoming more popular. The more listeners they attract, the more they will have to pay, making the prospect of popularity and growth too expensive for college Web-casters.
The fees have prompted many colleges to take preemptive action and shutdown. Schools like Emerson College, New York University and the University of California at Los Angeles have pulled their Web-casting operations. This is in anticipation of per-song fees that could add up to thousands of dollars per year plus the additional cost of providing for new recording abilities that would track detailed information about every song played.
It will be nearly impossible for any Web-casting college station to survive if the fees go into effect. The cost of collecting the information needed to comply with the Digital Millennium Act will already be prohibitively expensive, not to mention the retroactive fees which would force payment for songs played since 1998.
WRGW, along with a few stations at schools like the University of Texas at Austin and Middlebury College, are still broadcasting despite the prospect of fees. WRGW should be congratulated for staying on the air, but they need to join in to the voice of dissent organizing across the country.
The station operators need to be proactive. This is an issue facing college stations all around the country that will be decided in D.C., but WRGW is not even involving themselves in the debate. They have no interest in entering any pending lawsuits regarding the legality of the fees, nor have they contributed to lobbying efforts to get members of Congress to realize the college radio perspective.
These fees have the potential to end the broadcasting of music at GW, but not even a letter to The Hatchet to make students aware of the situation has been printed.
This law just sounds like it is out to get the little guy. It should not hold up in the courts or in Congress, but WRGW should not just sit back and watch the proceedings that will determine their future in their own city without joining in on the debate.