Cyberclinic: Is it true that internet radio stations may soon have to close?

Radio is just another area where the internet has erased many of the restrictions that distance once placed on the medium. I don't have to be in Caerphilly to listen to Chris Needs's mind-boggling late-night chats with the local elderly community on BBC Radio Wales – I can be anywhere in the world, as long as I've got an internet connection. Wonderful niche stations such as the London-based Resonance FM can easily be heard in Wyoming as well as the Wye Valley. And the level playing field of the web enables amateur DJs, based in their bedrooms, to establish a broader listenership than some established commercial stations. Well, theoretically at least. However, once they become popular, the industry will come knocking.

Because internet radio is based on streaming media (i.e. you don't download sound files, and thus can't easily store the shows on your computer or transfer them to CD or an mp3 player) you'd be forgiven for thinking that copyright issues don't really apply. But you'd be wrong, as reader Martin Blackeby discovered. "It's pretty easy for anyone who is computer-literate to set up a radio station," he writes, "using software you can download from websites at shoutcast.com, icecast.com and others. But, if you investigate further, you find out about all the various royalties that are due as soon as you start playing any music." Many small-time internet broadcasters don't bother to pay royalties; while they probably have big dreams as radio DJs, they're also aware that their activities are insignificant enough for them not to be prosecuted.

Meanwhile, those who prefer to play by the book can always set up a station at Live365.com; this involves paying a monthly subscription fee depending on your needs ($44.95 gets you 100 listener slots) which covers all the various royalties that are due to songwriters and performers. From the beginning of this week, however – and backdated to the beginning of last year – a new charge has been levied by the US Copyright Board, requiring each internet radio channel in the USA to pay a minimum of $500 per year as an additional performance royalty. This charge doesn't apply to terrestrial broadcasters and is widely seen to be unfair, as it threatens the business models of many existing internet radio stations.

Following widespread protests, the new charge is "under negotiation", but Christian Ward at Last.fm, the UK-based social networking site, which offers users their own radio station, predicts a long battle between the music business and music enthusiasts across all territories before the issues surrounding internet radio are settled. "Smaller independent labels understand the situation, as do most musicians," he says, " but some organisations just want to turn the clock back to the 1990s and pretend the internet had never happened."

Diagnosis required

Next week's question comes from Andy Brownsett: "All the forums I ever come across on the internet seem to be full of endless slanging matches. Are there any out there that aren't driven by sheer fury?" Any comments, and new questions for the Cyberclinic, should be emailed to cyberclinic@independent.co.uk

cyberclinic@independent.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Production Administrator

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading and fastest ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sunroom / Conservatory / Extension Designers

£16000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Planning Assistant

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the count...

Recruitment Genius: Purchase Ledger Administrator

£5120 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the countr...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence