[icecast] DMCA and webcasting

Jack Moffitt jack at xiph.org
Thu Sep 13 15:05:19 UTC 2001

Forewarning... this is my understanding and advice. I am not a lawyer.

First off, Jamie Zawinski has an article about this here: 

> ==================================================================
> hey josh,
> i talked to [faculty advisor] today and was told we must stop our online
> streaming.  reasons for this rash decision involve around a new law that
> was put in place over the summer saying that stations who broadcast online
> have to pay royalties, but the amount to be paid has yet to be specified.

First off the DMCA was enacted in 1998.  I believe you are also exempt
for it if you also broadcast over-the-air.  _That_ part might have
changed, as certainly the RIAA will be after money from traditional

> so until
> some mystical nationwide beaucracy tells us how much royalties we have to
> pay (a few months, says [faculty advisor]) we're not allowed to broadcast
> online.  

A few months?  It's been going on for years, and no one is sure when it
will end.  It's likely not to for a good long while still.  There was a
wired article about the rates being discussed.  You might want to look
that up.

> this sucks a lot, i know, but i think we need to obey.  so,
> i'm hoping that you can stop by the station tonight and get the streaming
> computer turned off and whatever else it takes to make sure we're not
> streaming when we start broadcasting tomorrow.  if you have questions,
> ask me or [faculty advisory] directly...he's more familiar with the law
> than me.  if you want to mention that on the website too when you get
> time....

Doesn't sound like [faculty advisor] knows this law at all and just read
some email from some friend at another university.

> Now, from my inderstanding the the DMCA and recent events, it is possible
> that we will be made to pay some royalties to the record labels.  However,
> we are a very small radio station with a very small webcasting audiance.  We
> don't pay any royalties to broadcast over the air.  

Then in other words, you're stealing music even for your online
broadcast.  You _must_ pay ASCAP, BMI, and/or SESAC in order to
broadcast _anything_ over _any_ medium.  If you're not paying that, then
you are in dangerous trouble of litigation from those companies.  They
can and will go after you.  hell, they sued the girl scouts and won for
them singing around campfires.

> My belief is that we should
> not halt our webcast for fear of future fees.  I can't imagine that the record
> companies who send us their CDs for free will send us a bill for our
> webcasting since October 1998.  

They will.  ASCAP and BMI and possibly SESAC will also send you a bill.
You are being naive about the way this works:

Performance royalties are paid to songwriters.  That's where you money
to ASCAP and BMI go.  In other words, this goes to somone who deserves
the monday.  So you _want_ to pay this fee (typically 2.5% of revenue
with some minimum fee in the range of 200-500$ a year).

DMCA royalties go straight to the fucking big five labels.  Artists will
probably never see this money.  This is basically the same type of license 
as if you would be pressing and selling CDs.  This is quite simply an
internet tax.  On the air stations don't have to deal with the DMCA and, at
least to my knowledge, do they have to deal with it  even when they
broadcast online.

Technology royalties for MP3 (if you are using that and not Vorbis), are
$15k a year minimum and some percent of revenue if your station
generates revenue (do you sell ads?).

> I have a meeting with the faculty advisor
> tommorow.  If anyone has any thoughts or advice on what I should say during
> this meeting I would greatly appreciate it.

Sounds like you are in a bad position, as you're not paying the correct
royalties anyway, and if you push the situation, they are likely to just
shut it all off.  Explain the royalty situation. Show him jwz's page on

Good luck.


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