Stealing of a Culture
April 3, 2002
Dear Congresswoman DeGette,
I am writing you concerning a current issue involving the
future of American culture that worries me greatly. As you
are no doubt aware, in 1998 Congress passed legislation known
as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The intent
of DMCA was to provide fair compensation to sound recording
copyright owners for material digitally broadcast over the
The Librarian of Congress empanelled a group known as the
Copyright Arbitration Royalty Proceeding (CARP) to resolve
the implementation details of DMCA. Apparently CARP's final
recommendation was predicated upon the assumption that music
webcasting would be in the hands of internet giants such as
AOL and YAHOO. This is not what has happened.
Instead, a new, exciting webcasting industry has sprung up
composed of small, independent, entrepreneurial webcasters
serving a wide variety of listener tastes that, until the
spread of webcasting, have been completely ignored by the
vast wasteland that comprises contemporary commercial broadcasting.
CARP's proposed fee and reporting structures will most certainly
destroy this new industry before it even has a chance to become
I will spare you the details here but I have included information
links concerning this deplorable situation at the bottom of
My concern has cultural implications that are much broader
than just my ability to have a diversity of broadcast music
available to me. I support our capitalistic economic system
despite its numerous flaws because it beats all the alternatives.
I support it because of its strengths which include the encouragement
of the entrepreneurial spirit, quality assurance through competition
and freedom of consumer choice.
So I ask, what is capitalistic about allowing a consortium
of federal bureaucrats and megalithic corporations and industrial
associations to destroy a fledgling industry, which is struggling
toward profitability? This isn't capitalism, it is corporate
socialism of the most egregious sort; and it threatens to
cripple our cultural heritage as surely as decades of "cultural
commissars" virtually destroyed contemporary cultures in Eastern
Europe under the Soviet Union.
The sad thing is this is a no-win situation for almost everyone
involved. Artists - especially those who have not received
the blessing of the commercial broadcasting industry - lose
valuable exposure. Webcasters lose their businesses. Listeners
lose the new freedom of choice in what they hear. And what
about the record companies? They think that DMCA will protect
their profits. They couldn't be more wrong.
They pay millions of dollars a year to intermediaries to
secure airplay for the music they choose to promote. But a
funny thing happened at the Grammy's this year. The majority
of the most prestigious awards went to artists and a genre
that gets virtually no airplay. This was because millions
of moviegoers heard American music in a popular movie that
they'd never heard before, and they ran out and bought the
No doubt many of those people are now asking where they can
hear more. The audience is there and so is the venue and it
sure isn't corporate radio; but the incredibly shortsighted
recording industry is foolishly trying to destroy this new
venue which is a potentially huge source of free promotion
for their product.
Suppose that for whatever reason draconian regulations such
as DMCA had been imposed on small, independent recording companies
in the 50's. Suppose that the government and dominant forces
in the recording industry had prevented Sam Phillips from
undertaking the unheard of project of recording and promoting
a white kid from Tupelo Mississippi who sang Negro music.
Where would our culture be now if that had been allowed to
Unlike radio broadcasting, webcasting presents our culture
to the rest of the world. It is our opportunity to show the
world that our musical experience consists of much more than
Britney Spears and Michael Jackson. Do we want this stifled?
Please do what you can to help prevent the theft of this
new though very important venue for our cultural heritage.
Your Voting Constituent,
Radio and Internet Newletter
- Web Radio's Last Stand