Radio Paradise is begging for help. No, this is not the usual “please make donations so we can continue to be free” kind of request that RP and other listener-supported radio stations make This time it’s “please stop the US Copyright Office from killing us.”

For quite a while, digital (Web) radio has had to pay significantly higher performance royalty rates than analog broadcast services. In effect, analog radio gets for free what Web radio pays through the nose to stream. That has hampered the growth of the industry and stifled any number of free, independent and likely new creative Web radio initiatives. But it gets worse.

On March 1 of this year, the Board issued new rates and decided to base those rates on a “per play” computation scheme championed by (wait for it…) the RIAA. The computation itself is based off an assumption of mass audience and significant commercial revenue. If you’re a big Clearchannel station the assumptions behind this new fee schedule make total sense.

However, if you’re small/independent/not-for-profit or otherwise outside the big media mainstream, well, you’re screwed. RAIN (Radio And Internet Newsletter) has a concise breakdown of the fee schedule, and agrees with RP’s claim that the schedule amounts to over 100% of station revenues in a typical situation.

What can we do? I’m honestly not sure. I know that ratepayers affected by the Copyright Board’s decision have a time period to appeal. RP asked for people to blog about it, digg it, make the public aware, and so I’m doing that. I don’t see any obvious mechanism under which the Copyright Office is collecting citizen comments – perhaps a message from Congress is required?

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