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Question regarding blanket licensing and 'stream sourced from blanket license domain'


cr08
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This is one thought that came across my mind earlier and it has slowly grown to an itch in the back of my head so I'd like to hear a very serious discussion on this especially if anyone has any indepth knowledge of all the rules laid out by the licensing folks (US groups in this case; ASCAP, BMI, SoundEx, etc).

 

The thought basically comes down to this: Some of us really like to have a start-to-finish wholly encompassed and seamless experience for our listeners. Meaning they go to your site at www.yourstationhere.com, hop around, hit a listen link and up pops a custom player from your site. Or maybe just a player in the main browser window made to work with the site ala AJAX so pages change but the player stays active all in the same window.

 

Unfortunately unless you are a big enough station to pay royalties directly, Blanket licensing from the likes of Swcast and LoudCity is the only option. Now under their own rules which, I assume, are tightly based on those rules laid out by the big licensing groups, says that the streams/players in themselves have to source from the domain of the blanket license company. My pondering on that rule is this: Is it exactly as laid out there in that it must be a separate page with the URL bar clearly visible with the proper domain? Or is it legally possible to do something such as running your own player, even a downloaded one outside a browser, have some imagery in it like a clearly visible badge reading 'Powered By LoudCity.net' and be within the rules?

 

This is really a what-if question than anything. I can completely understand possible detractors against having such an option as it could be very difficult to track and it is much easier to simply say 'Your stream MUST originate from our site, no exceptions.'. But I am completely unsure as to where this rule really goes in particular and want to know from more experienced people in this area.

 

Thanks!

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SWcast is out of business for good.

 

If you launch a station from one of the US blanket carriers, you must launch through their site. These are the legal rules set by ASCAP, BMI, SoundExchange, etc. No way around it unless you buy blanket coverage from all of these companies.

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I think the Performance Rights Organizations must have a way to know who is legal, and who isn't, so they don't fire off take-down notices and take legal action against licensed webcasters.

 

The simplest way to manage that list is probably by URL. So many of the Rights Organizations license the DOMAIN. If a website is performing copyrighted music, they can look at the .com/.net domain in the URL and quickly determine if that domain is licensed or not.

 

Having said that, I've been webcasting since 2005 and, like you, wish to offer my listeners a "start-to-finish wholly encompassed and seamless experience". I've had no trouble meeting that goal while staying within the parameters and launch rules of a blanket-licensed network. The two don't have to be mutually exclusive.

 

My little station ranks in the top 1% of all stations on shoutcast.com and, In 5 years of broadcasting, I've never once had a listener write to me and ask my why my launch page is hosted on a different domain. In my experience, they either don't notice, or they don't care.

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Bummer. That's what I, unfortunately, kinda figured. Was hoping there'd be a little more breathing room on that rule as to let stations under the likes of Loudcity be a little more 'creative'.

 

On a hypothentical note: I wonder what would be the case, say, if a station decided to offer their own application either mobile or on PC/Mac that totally bypassed the website portion. If these rules would still dictate the necessity of sending a listener to the LC launch page first. Given it actually takes a conscious effort and desire to download and use such an app compared to just running to a web page and hitting a listen button, plus it loosely follows along the same lines as if a listener had already launched from a LC launch page and the direct server entry stayed in their winamp playlist for them to directly play later.

Edited by cr08
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You have to weigh the risks of straying outside the lines, I guess. It's a judgement call.

 

In the USA, the penalties for webcasting one song to one listener without a license is "up to $150,000" - Stream a single unlicensed track to 10 listeners, and the fine is as high as $1.5 Million - you get the idea.

 

"Loosely following the rules" isn't my strategy when dealing with penalties like that, but to each his own.

 

Personally, I focus on the content of my stream. Content is king. As long as my listeners can find/discover my station, and tune in easily, mission accomplished. I built a nice website for my station and it seems to work just fine for my listeners.

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It's not really a case of finding loopholes and risking things, which is not what I am really aiming at. It's more a case of the old adage that laws around technology are never up to date and usually sorely out of date. In this case, mobile tech has progressed rapidly since the time these laws were penned to the point that mobile apps, mobile listening and a distinction from the mobile web of yesterday is an all new game. I am simply trying to gather if anyone has actually investigated this further and gotten any kind of official advice on it or not. Unfortunately when you sit back and look at the bigger picture, you have the traditional PC browser, website, and players which is what these laws were written around, and then you have the brand new section quartered off which is the mobile world as a whole that was never thought of.

 

Simply gathering useful info and prodding for solid, sanctioned leads. Not intending to break any rules and risk hefty fines, not by a long shot.

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The licence is based on TLH so whether it is by website or mobile app or piece of string and 2 cans it is covered. I think this is how the webcaster licence was developed to ensure whatever technology TLH will always be a constant.

 

The thing is with this law is the fact that it would cost a fortune to maintain, I am legal but for everyone like me there is probably 10000 people broadcasting from their PC's without any licence. So if it was easy to do then the licencing companies would be taking everyone to court and raking in money to distribute but they just arent on any large scale. Really it is a prime ground for a company like the iffy ACS Law to make a killing on companies behalf.

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The licence is based on TLH so whether it is by website or mobile app or piece of string and 2 cans it is covered. I think this is how the webcaster licence was developed to ensure whatever technology TLH will always be a constant.

See, this I understand. But if this was the sole case, there wouldn't be the distinct rule that the stream MUST originate from a singularly licensed domain. If it was merely based on TLH which, from the outside looking in, is all they care about, the licensing stipulation around a specific domain wouldn't be there. Or at least be a little more lax. Since ultimately the licensing agencies get the reports they want that tell them how much they should get paid.

 

To me, the scenario I provided earlier along the lines of adding a 'Powered by Loudcity.net' badge in relevant areas regardless of domain/source would be sufficient and not change the amount of royalties that get paid out. Though anyone could display a badge I guess so it adds extra complications of verifying with LC to see if X station is a paying and active customer. Which probably explains the rule in question, keeps complexity to a bare minimum with the blank license provider under complete control.

 

Which really brings me to my next curiosity: Seems there are currently allowances for blanket licensed stations to list on directories such as TuneIn or Shoutcast and still remain legal. It really interests me what the specific legal wording was behind this and how it came about as it seems like a very recent change.

 

Now with THAT said, I am still in the viewpoint these rules are there for a reason and do intend to follow them to the letter. Doesn't change the fact though I see some legitimate points not distinctly covered by them that more or less boil down to grey areas of legitimacy that are worth discussing/investigating.

 

The thing is with this law is the fact that it would cost a fortune to maintain, I am legal but for everyone like me there is probably 10000 people broadcasting from their PC's without any licence. So if it was easy to do then the licencing companies would be taking everyone to court and raking in money to distribute but they just arent on any large scale. Really it is a prime ground for a company like the iffy ACS Law to make a killing on companies behalf.

Indeed. From the very beginning of this hobby (some NUMEROUS years ago around ~'02) and being aware of the licensing/royalty situation, makes me wonder how many of these stations are actually legal and if not, how they've stayed 'on the air' so long. Like everything else in this world, most likely comes down to manpower and going after the larger fish, to paraphrase an ancient adage...

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Very good questions. As a licensed station owner who recently received a visit from BMI to ensure I was in compliance with the terms of use for streamlicensing, some interesting things came up. If you look at my set up on www.40rock.me, you will clearly see that clicking on the "click to listen" brings up all the players under the streamlicensing.com domain. However, according to BMI, I am still not in compliance. Basically they want the website to close when the player opens and they don't want the music to automatically start playing when the players open. So we are now in the process of fixing that. BMI was kind enough to allow us to continue to operate until we get it fixed. Here's the paragraph of the agreement they cite:

 

“Web Page” means a set of associated files transferred sequentially from the Web Site to, and rendered more or less simultaneously by, a browser. From purposes of this Agreement, ‘pop up’ windows, proprietary media players and/or ‘daughter’ windows within embedded media players that launch when accessing performances of music or upon loading the Web Page are considered part of the Web Page from which they were launched and not a separate Web Page."

 

We could sit here all day long and argue the merits of this one paragraph in the agreements, but unfortunately this is what we have to live with in order to keep fees low and affordable. Additionally, it wouldn't be fair to the medium and large broadcasters to operate as they do for a cheaper fee as most of them pay for the additional license needed.

 

As far as who they are chasing down and why, I can say this with 100% certainty. Many licensed stations are now reporting un-licensed stations to SoundExchange and some of the others like BMI, SESAC, and ASCAP. I do know SoundExchange is taking a very aggressive approach to chasing down the un-licensed stations. It does take time but many un-licensed stations are receiving e-mails asking about their license status. Seeing some of these e-mails first hand, it appears as if they want to give the un-licensed stations a chance to become legal. I don't know what they do if those e-mails are ignored. I have seen first hand that some of these un-licensed stations simply shut down, or become licensed through loudcast, streamlicensing or move over to live 365. So while it may appear many are operating illegally, and have been for some time, it certainly seems like that is changing. The big problem for SoundExchange is the amount of start-ups each month. It's mind blowing.

 

The biggest problem I have heard about from small and micro broadcasters is the huge mis-understanding with what laws apply to them, how fees are calculated, the terms of use with the blanket license providers, and frustration with the whole system. There isn't one place for the small broadcaster to go to get the information needed to comply with all the laws involved. Not to mention how to set up in accordance with the terms of use of the blanket providers. Marvin at Streamlicensing has taken a pro-active stance in this and is working very closely with his clients to ensure the agreements and terms of use are followed and easy to understand. I can't speak about loudcast/Brandon because I am not part of his system. I will say this, loudcast, streamlicensing, and live 365 are legitimate and anyone saying otherwise is just wrong. There seems to be a lot of information on other forums that suggests these guys are scams like SWCAST. The main reason for saying they are scams is the way you have to set up if you go with one of these services. It's almost as if people think there is some sort of conspiracy to generate business for these providers. The license providers have agreements they must follow to keep the fees low and affordable for the small and micro broadcasters. That means that if we obtain a blanket license from one of these providers, we must follow those agreements, their terms of use, and laws that apply to broadcasters.

If that's something broadcasters can't live with, you can negotiate a separate license from each of the four. Trust me when I say it's fairly expensive for the small and micro broadcaster that requires a yearly fee, 500 dollars and up per license (not monthly as is available through loudcast, streamlicensing, and live365). Separate licenses means you will have to file reports yourself or obtain a waiver of reporting requirements.

 

The fee we pay through these services is quite affordable when you consider what all is involved and what these providers have to do every month. The fact we can pay a monthly fee is a huge plus when you consider that the BIG 4 all want yearly fees paid up front.

 

Tom

www.40rock.me

Tom

 

 

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Great post. I actually launched with SWCast, but moved over to LoudCity when they opened their doors in 2005. All the licensed networks (Loudcaster, Live365, LoudCity, Streamlicensing) have launch rules, etc. Those rules are for the protection of the webcaster. Stray, and it's not the network that get's the hammer. It's the broadcaster.

 

I can verify that some stations do indeed slap a LoudCity or other provider's badge on their website without actually being a customer of the network they claim to be affiliated with. That doesn't fool the PROs though - It's that full-browser-window with domain visible rule that helps places like BMI know who's legit and who isn't.

 

...you have the traditional PC browser, website, and players which is what these laws were written around, and then you have the brand new section quartered off which is the mobile world as a whole that was never thought of.

 

Absolutely - things in the music industry seem to move at glacial speed. Apps for stations under 3rd party licensed networks are a no-no, but the network can have an app. I don't see why a broadcaster, provided the page also resides on the network's domain, couldn't put up a mobile-friendly tune-in page to catch the iPod Touch/iPhone crowd. I built a whole mobile site for listeners on iOS/Android platforms a couple of years ago. Does it see a ton of hits? No, but for some of my listeners, it's important - plus it was fun to build.

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To me, the scenario I provided earlier along the lines of adding a 'Powered by Loudcity.net' badge in relevant areas regardless of domain/source would be sufficient and not change the amount of royalties that get paid out.

The licensing companies (LC & StreamLicensing) have contracts with ASCAP, BMI, etc. that specifically call for the launch page to come from LC & StreamLicensing. It might seem OK to you just to put up a banner saying you are licensed, but this breeches the contract between ASCAP, BMI, etc and LC & StreamLicensing. That is why you have to do it. It's in their contract. Period. No way around it, unless you go to ASCAP, BMI, etc. and get your own license.

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I have a sortof related question to add to the thread: Is there any sort of solid list of what labels I am bound to abide by the playout rules on? I know a large amount of my library is foreign stuff and likely most of it is not under any label that is under the jurisdiction of BMI and co.. But I want to make doubly sure if I can. It'd be nice to not have playout rules enforced on as much as I can legally manage.
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For SAMS we set the "playlist rotation rules" at 60-60-180-180 so there is no chance of an intentional violation of the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act). I follow the DMCA regardless of who represents what artist because it is Federal law. If you are not bound by United States Federal Law, than check with your country's laws, there may be an international agreement with your country on the DMCA. You will find that the blanket license providers either mention the DMCA directly in their Terms of Use or quote the applicable sections. If you obtain a blanket license, you are bound by the Terms of Use for that provider. If in doubt, contact an attorney who specializes in business, copyright law, internet law, or send an e-mail to your license provider.

 

Tom

http://www.40rock.me

Tom

 

 

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I actually did a little bit of digging on my own and apparently, at least on the part of SoundExchange, they pretty much 'catch-all' for everything played regardless if the songwriters/artists are actively asking for royalties to be paid and as an extension: Pretty much anything played which reportinng data reaches them (given the stipulation of 'You must only play content allowed in the US'). To put it blatantly simple anyways. Which really sucks and is a stupid way to run things. Unfortunately not much to do about it. :| So it makes plans a little more difficult going forward now. I'm going to have to examine my library with rotation rules in mind and see if things are still doable. Still in the process of organizing everything and reading close to ~9,000 tracks. Although there's some albums spread across multiple discs accounting for ~100 tracks each. The album playout rule is going to kill me. That and likely the artist rule depending on how multiple equal billing artists are handled.
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Well, SoundExchange is a mixed blessing, but the system isn't as stupid as it may first appear.

 

US copyright law has the provision for a "statutory license". SoundExchange is presently the entity selected by the Copyright Royalty Board to collect royalties from webcasters operating under the statutory license.

 

The good here is that, absent that provision & license, any internet radio operator would have to spend all their time running around trying to secure permission and rights to webcast every track in their collection - and negotiate prices each time. Plus, the label/artist could simply say "no" - and then you can't play them at all. Ever.

 

Because of the statutory license, they can't say no. And while the rates are high (too high, in my opinion), they are clear and guaranteed. I think a system without a Statutory License would send most legit webradio stations underground, or off the air.

 

The tradeoff for the Statutory License? Some play rules to discourage piracy. Not bad, really, when you think about it.

 

As for the album playout rule, it's not a big deal. You'll be operating on the same level playing field as every other pureplay webcaster. We all have to play by that rule. The artist rule is a bit more difficult to follow with automated systems, but the language of the DMCA, I think, includes the word "intentionally"

 

It's pretty hard to unintentionally play an album. But it's possible to unintentionally play McCartney, Lennon and the Beatles all in the same hour. It should be avoided when possible, but I don't sweat accidental playlist issues like that.

Edited by dotme
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There's another issue that has never been brought up here that needs to be addressed. I had an interesting conversation with my attorney regarding U.S. presenters/dj's that volunteer and if they too could be held legally responsible for violations of the DMCA and other applicable laws. Indeed, DJ's can be held liable for violations of the DMCA. I see a lot of posts from owners of U.S. stations wanting live DJ's/presenters. Rarely do you see "licensed station" in those posts. Please don't put your volunteers in a bad situation legally. Because a lot of station owners have Dj's sign electronic agreements to Dj with them, the potential Dj should read and understand what they are signing.

 

If you are a DJ looking to volunteer, the first question in your e-mail to the station should be "are you licensed and if so through who?" Most blanket licensed stations have the licensing logo on their site indicating they are licensed (if they have thier own websites). As previously mentioned, be careful and double check as some stations are allegedly illegally displaying licensing logo's. If a station is properly licensed on loudcast, live365, and streamlicensing, they will be displayed on those sites under the requirements/agreements/ terms of use of the license provider. READ the Terms of Use of the license providers carefully.

 

You should also be cautioned that some owners of stations will not be truthful when it comes to their license status. And some are not required to be licensed because of the type of station they have and the music they play, etc. Some may get thier licenses direct from the Big 4. Either way, as a DJ/Presenter, it is your responsibility to know what you are getting into when you volunteer for internet radio. If the station owner won't answer your questions or is being coy on the subject, don't volunteer for that station.

 

Secondly. I have seen many a DJ who goes on air with what is an obvious playlist with illegally downloaded music. The tagging is horrible and painfully obvious where the music came from. If you are illegally downloading music and you DJ, your legal status is in further jeopardy when this type of playlist is displayed for all to see. Understand how the license providers file their reports and what is included in those reports.

 

Thirdly, license fees are calculated using total listener hours each month, expenses/revenue each month, etc. The cost of music and the license fee itself are reportedly not to be included in the expense/revenue report you file each month with the license provider. Check with your license provider to make sure of what you are required to report for expenses. Keep in mind that under the Small Broadcaster Settlement Act the small broadcaster pays 7% of his/her expenses (or 10% of revenue) as part of our license fee. Yea, expenses....LOL. I'll keep my comments to myself on this one.

 

There is also a profit margin with each license provider. Those margins vary from provider to provider. Understand that without these providers the small broadcaster would be paying 500-1000 dollars a year for a separate license from each of the four plus we would be filing our own reports. If you don't believe me on that, go check out each of the sites at ASCAP, SESAC, SOUNDEXCHANGE and BMI and look at the small/micro web broadcaster fees. Those fees are not sustainable for the small/micro broadcaster. Live 365, Loudcast, and Streamlicensing (more providers available or reportedly coming on line soon) provide an invaluable service to those of us that love internet radio and they do so in an affordable manner.

 

 

Tom

Edited by Spinny

Tom

 

 

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Yep. The DJ+licensing aspect is one that has always been on my mind, albeit not front and center. But it has always been summed up from my perspective as 'The laws do not except live DJs/presenters, they follow the same rules as the station as a whole does'. And as a curiosity I have always wondered how many DJs on properly licensed stations have kept track of what has played X hours back before they came on the air and program their playlist accordingly. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if that is a low percentage rate and they are just lucky enough to slip by the watchful eye of the Big 4.

 

In my particular case I do not plan to run live DJs for the forseeable future largely for a 'professional sound' reason (that being hot cutovers from AutoDJ to live DJ's. Would rather have a smooth cutover right after a song/ID ends and right into the DJ's show's intro. I have a theoretical solution in mind but I have yet to find a working option in my searches). And at the very most it would be pre-recorded shows that were recorded off-air and thus better control over. Nice side effect there of being able to stay within the lines and help keep potential DJ's out of hot water as well.

 

Your post and some of the others are very good sticky/site material here I think since this all equally applies to everyone running stations legally regardless of whether they pay directly or go through a blanket provider

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  • 11 months later...

I wanted to agree with Saint's previous post. European Radionomy has actually now opened in the United States in earnest, and producing on their platform has given me a turnkey solution to music rights. They offer a huge library of paid for music or I can upload my own music -- and provided I supply the correct metatags for my tracks -- they pay the royalties for these plays, no questions asked. It's fantastic to remove myself from all the rights morass and just focus on programming. Here is the most recent station I opened on Radionomy.

 

http://www.radionomy.com/en#!/en/radio/viceroy-radio/index

 

:laugh::retard::P

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  • 1 month later...

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