Would You Like a Puppy With Your Phone?

Last month, the newest development in the debate about whether broadcast radio should be required to pay performance royalties on sound recordings was the news of a grand bargain struck by RIAA and NAB to require all mobile devices carry an FM receiver in exchange for the broadcasters’ support of performance rights legislation.

Yesterday, to build the case for this ridiculous idea, NAB released the results of a survey they commissioned asking consumers if they would be in favor of having a built in radio chip in their smartphones. Not surprisingly, the survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, found that 76 percent of respondents said they would consider paying a one-time fee of 30 cents to access local FM radio stations through a receiver chip built into their mobile phones. Of course, NAB saw these results and then quickly concluded, “Consumers demand AM/FM radio on their phones and government must be the one to do it!”

I can hardly believe that anyone over at NAB actually believes such nonsense or they may not have left out the obvious follow up question (as Ars Technica aptly points out):

"Do you think that Congress should force mobile device makers to include a radio chip in every smartphone?"

I’m guessing the broadcasters wouldn’t see the same positive results.

If, in fact, there truly is a high demand, the appropriate response comes from the market. Manufacturers will have an incentive to strike a deal with broadcasters and put the chip in. In fact, this has already happened since numerous models are already available that allow for FM capabilities.

I am actually beginning to wonder if the broadcasters are capable of doing business without having the hand of the government snatching some form of property from another industry on their behalf. Which leads us back to the original debate on performance rights.

PRA has long been an advocate of the right of performers to collect royalties from broadcasters when their recordings are played on the radio. Under current law, radio broadcasters are allowed to use copyrighted intellectual property without compensation because of the perceived promotional benefit to the owner of the creative work. Satellite, Internet, and Cable broadcasters are not exempt and must pay for the use of music, regardless of any promotional benefit to the artist.

There may indeed be a promotional benefit, enough of a benefit where the copyright owner may even deem it worthwhile to pay to have their song on the radio which was the case before the bans on payola. It is also completely within the rights of broadcasters to decide not to pay for the use of a performer’s song by simply not using the song. This may not be an ideal option, but these songs actually are the property of someone else. Yet the exemption exists as a favor to the politically powerful broadcasters.

Congress needs to stop granting favors to the broadcasters and grant a performance right, as well as back off of the tech industry.

And as an aside, I will be conducting my own survey asking consumers if they would like a puppy with their mobile phones. I am expecting similar results.