RIAA Now Bullying Fully Licensed, Zero Revenue Music Site

Earlier this week it was reported how the RIAA had decided to turn the licensing thumbscrews on a site offering decades-old radio archives for download. Now another archival site, one that pays thousands of dollars in license fees to BMI, ASCAP and SoundExchange yet makes not a cent, is now in the RIAA spotlight.

tapesLast Wednesday we reported a particularly miserable situation between the RIAA and a near 20-year-old radio fansite.

Around since 1996, ReelRadio is a service dedicated to streaming historical radio shows, specifically decades-old ‘aircheck’ demo recordings which were often used to showcase radio announcers before being placed in the archives.

ReelRadio isn’t some ‘rogue’ site determined to avoid paying artists. The site does its bit by paying a proper license, but last week the RIAA decided that it needed to more strictly enforce its terms. Trouble is, those terms are so restrictive that not only will the site have to drastically reduce its user experience in order to comply, in some instances it may actually prove impossible to meet the terms.

Sadly, TorrentFreak has discovered that ReelRadio isn’t on its own. The RIAA has also been contacting other sites with demands for compliance. On July 11, PatesTapes.com, a site dedicated to vinyl-to-tape-to-digital mixtape archives created by Charles Pates, also received a letter from the industry group.

“The demands are almost exactly the same as what ReelRadio is reporting – remove ‘archived recordings’ after two weeks and ‘archive recordings’ must be longer than five hours. In our case, saying what is in the recording before it plays is a no-no,” PatesTapes’ Dennis Wallace informs TF.

What makes the RIAA’s pressure even more unpalatable is the entirely not-for-profit nature of PatesTapes. In fact, the site deliberately generates absolutely no revenue whatsoever yet chooses to pay ASCAP, BMI and SoundExchange a total of $5,000 in licensing fees to keep things above board.

“It’s a total labor of love,” Wallace told TF.

“[The site] has a small but passionate following (a steady 200 listeners per day over several years), and the typical listener would put on a tape and let it auto-play from tape to tape within the same category over the course of the next several hours,” Wallace explains.

Now, however, the future of the site is in the balance. Earlier this week it seemed almost certain that PatesTapes would be closing down but now the team is taking time out to assess their position.

“We had a meeting and we’ll be trying to revive the site rather than shutting down. We’re moving from a ‘pick your tape’ model to more of a ‘pick you stream’ model, based on a longer set list. We are going to be running this past legal minds so we can be more sure about any subsequent challenge,” Wallace adds.

Characteristically for the RIAA, the letter sent to both PatesTapes and ReelRadio concludes with a threat.

“If we do not hear from you by August 22, 2014, we will assume that you do not intend to remedy the violations and will take whatever measures we feel are necessary,” the RIAA warns.

At this point it’s worth noting the contrast between the RIAA’s dealings with the world’s biggest file-sharing sites and the hobbyist services highlighted above. The former pay not a cent in licensing fees and yet carry on unhindered, business as usual, millions of copyrighted items available. The latter, who are paying thousands of dollars in licenses, for little to nothing in return, just to have fun, are having their existences threatened.

It appears that being small and being honest is not only interpreted as a weakness, but also as an opportunity to pull in even more revenue. The question is, however, how many sites like these will simply close down and take their money with them.

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