Webcasters threaten to sue RIAA

Thursday, 10 July 2003, 1:58 PM EST

The Webcaster Alliance, a group representing about 300 Net radio stations, says royalty agreements negotiated last year at the behest of Congress and the Library of Congress threaten to put a number of small stations out of business.

The group's members have not paid royalties to copyright owners under any of several possible payment schemes, one of which was passed last year by Congress in an attempt to protect the economic viability of small Net radio stations. The group contends that the big record labels and medium-sized Webcasters tailored even that agreement to shut out small operators.

That agreement "appeared to establish an anticompetitive program designed to exclude small radio stations," said Perry Narancic, an attorney representing the alliance. "Now we have people existing in a great sense of uncertainty, because neither of the regimes make economic sense for them."

The resurgence of the small Webcasters' claims underscores the continuing economic uncertainty in a medium struggling to retain its grassroots origins.

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