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The Recording Industry Association of America is going back to court- this time as a defendant. The litigious music business group has been sued by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), which represents America's conventional radio broadcasters.

The case centres around those radio stations that choose to transmit their shows via the Internet as well as on the air. They are angered that the RIAA expects them to pay twice to put their content on the Web. "Congress never intended for over-the-air radio stations that also stream their signals on the Internet to be subjected to new expensive copyright royalty fees,' said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton.

Traditionally, broadcasters are charged for songs by Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), or the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) on behalf of publishers and songwriters. Unlike in many countries, U.S. radio stations are not compelled to pay a license fee for playing a recording. Webcasters, on the other hand, are required by 1998's Digital Millennium Copyright Act to obtain a license from the RIAA to play major label recorded music.

However, only a handful of web-based broadcasters - such as and - have entered into agreements with the RIAA. It is rumoured that negotiations between webcasters and the record industry soured quickly, with the RIAA accused of demanding exorbitant fees of up to 15% of broadcasters' revenues.

As reported last week, ASCAP and BMI are slowly putting in motion plans for music-use reporting for the Internet and it is likely they will soon be levying their own separate charges for Web streaming. It is worth noting, then, that the NAB has not yet attempted to sue ASCAP and the BMI along similar lines. Is it possible that the US radio stations just have some secret axe to grind against the RIAA?


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