The Senate today introduced a bill to prevent outlandish increases in net-radio royalties, a companion to the bill proposed by the House of Representatives last month. I decided to check in with Pandora's founder Tim Westergren again to see how he and his fellow webcasters got such sudden political clout.
"Congress is calling this the grassroots campaign of the year," he says. "Office staffers say they have never received this many emails and inquiries on any issue in their congressional careers. The whole fax infrastructure of Capitol Hill was jammed for two days." (Ah, those crazy faxers.) If any of you doubts your ability to make a difference in DC, by all means keep reading.
Westergren says that the groundswell is really evidence, like the Digg riot of 2007, that people are more in control of messages thanks to the Web. "Information is becoming decentralized—now people are getting to participate. You can't mess around anymore with consumers or artists—they've got a huge megaphone. This is really the power of the people here. But this kind of power needs to be thoughtfully wielded."
I asked Westergren what it was like to find support from such unlikely allies as arch-conservative Sam Brownback. Although I assumed the cause was relatively liberal, Westergren says you can't pigeonhole net radio that way. "There's no correlation," he says. "This is not a partisan issue."
Unless something changes, July 15 will be the day that webcasters are presented a bill covering all of owed royalties dating back to the beginning of 2006, calculated using the current, oppressive rates. "Starting then," he says, "every webcaster is bankrupt, except for a couple."
The only answer, says Westergren, will come from the Capitol. "We are 100% focused on bill passage. Call your congressman or senator and ask them to support these bills. Bug them until they do it." He adds, "We're not a well-moneyed lobby, we're a young industry. There's no K Street presence here."
Well, what are you waiting for? Get to them faxes!! You may even try one of these newfangled systems for communicating with congresspersons—I'm told this "E" mail works pretty good.
Internet Radio Coverage [Gizmodo]