Wyden tackles Internet royalty bill criticism

Wyden argued that current royalty rules discriminate against Internet radio services because they're placed on a different royalty-setting standard than cable and satellite radio stations. The Oregon Democrat is the lead Senate sponsor of a bill that proposes to put Internet radio services on the 801(b) standard of the Copyright Act, which is the same standard used by the Copyright Royalty Board to set the royalty fees paid by cable and satellite radio.

"It is the job of policymakers to ensure that the law and public policy doesn't favor one business model over another, and particularly, that it doesn't favor incumbents over insurgents," Wyden said. "We've got to make sure that the past doesn't get a leg up on the future."

Wyden attempted to counter critics' claims that the royalty bill, the Internet Radio Fairness Act (IRFA), would take money out of the pockets of musicians and artists. If Internet radio services are able to thrive, recording artists and musicians would benefit from the additional avenue of income from these stations, he argued.

"I personally think if the royalty rates are lower, the Internet broadcasting market becomes larger, and that's a strategy for creating more income for artists, more music choices for consumers and a broader array of music," Wyden said.

The senator also pushed back against claims that a provision in the Internet royalty bill would violate First Amendment rights. Wyden said he planned to look deeper into these concerns, and said he was open to changing the text in the bill if the measure threatened free speech.

"I certainly would never ever support anything that would restrict free and open speech, particularly artists' expression," Wyden said. "If the consensus in the legal community is that this restricts the First Amendment, it will be a very short-lived provision."