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On the CRB's Proposed Census Reporting And Actual Total Performances


01.28.2009 - I have emailed my official comments to the CRB on this matter. Here they are, in PDF format - the echo some of what I've said here, but expand on the ATP and census issues.

The Copyright Royalty Board - (aka CRB) - recently published a 'Notice of Proposed Rulemaking' that, among other things:

  • argues to supersede the 2-week-per-quarter recordkeeping and replace it with census reporting
  • argues to completely do away with aggregate tuning hours and replace this metric with Actual Total Performances - i.e. how many streaming listeners heard each specific song
  • In the course of my work with and my involvement with both terrestrial and online radio stations, I put out a very in-depth guide to Aggregate Tuning Hours and SoundExchange Reports Of Use creation in order to help stations understand both of these issues.

    This article is a reactionary one, in order to comment upon the drastically increased level of reporting that the CRB proposes, and to help explain the mechanics of the issue. I will be submitting comments to the Copyright Royalty Board that may echo a lot of what I have written here - but this article will try and outline the major points and concerns on the issue.

    Because of the current US economic slump, the stations I deal with have all seen a severe drop in their donations and/or funding. So it is alarming that these proposed CRB recordkeeping changes are in play, since they could bring about a sixfold increase in the time and effort stations expend on recordkeeping and compliance. Many stations have already said they simply won't be able to comply, and would instead discontinue their web streaming and their SoundExchange royalty payments. In this scenario, everybody loses: the station loses listeners, the CRB loses a complying webcaster, and artists stop getting royalty money for their digital plays.

    So, yeah, I'd really like to avoid that scenario.

    Who I am, and why my opinion matters: I'm Bryan Hance. I have a degree in computer science from the University of Arizona, a background in radio and online media, and I'm also a systems administrator, programmer, and application developer. I help radio stations retool their processes and technology to comply with federal law to keep streaming legally. I designed, run, and market as a low-cost means for stations to comply with the recordkeeping and reporting requirements. I am

    For those of you that want bullet points of this article without actually having to read the whole thing, here they are:

    a) The CRB proposals are asking stations to shoulder yet another enormous increase in recordkeeping duties. The CRB should work to:

    a) acknowledge that certain stations will never be able to comply with census reporting and ATP, and work to find more acceptable middle ground or hybrid solutions

    b) incentivize the process for stations that are making drastic changes to accomplish their recordkeeping compliance

    c) if census reporting becomes mandatory, consider a gradual phase-in instead of jumping directly from 2-weeks-per-quarter to full census reporting

    d) the CRB needs to acknowledge that stations, copyright holders, and artists have all expressed severe concerns about the "back end" of royalties collection and distribution process. The current royalty calculation and disbursement process is not transparent enough to inspire confidence or a sincere desire to participate. The CRB needs to establish some transparency and oversight if it hopes to foster good faith in the process.

    b) Census reporting would be extremely labor-intensive for stations that don't broadcast with 100% computerized setups. As was the case with ATH, stations would have to retool their business practices, purchase new hardware and software, and retrain their staff to support census reporting.

    c) Actual Total Performances is almost impossible to calculate properly. It is possible to ballpark an ATP estimate, but doing so takes a lot of code. At this point in time, Aggregate Tuning Hours is still the more feasible metric to use.

    d) Webcasters can make a good faith effort to conform to the CRB rules, but complicating factors like automation, data entry, and human nature will complicate the process and make true census reporting unobtainable. Unless the CRB wants to forcefully homogenize the broadcast technology of every single webcaster in the US, they should reconsider the proposal for census reporting and the actual total performances metric.

    For those of you that would like to examine these topics in depth, please continue to the next section...

    Click here to continue to Part 2: Census Reporting

    Part 1: Introduction
    Part 2: Census Reporting
    Part 3: Actual Total Performances
    Part 4: Adoption Rate And Participation
    Part 5: A Process Badly In Need Of Transparency
    Part 6: Final Thoughts