It’s not hard to figure out how to kill a relatively young, fledgling industry: Regulate it to death and slap as many unreasonable fees on it as you can. Last week, the Copyright Royalty Board did so when it upheld a decision forcing online radio stations streaming music to go from paying royalties based on a percentage of their revenues (as determined by the Small Webcasters Settlement Act of 2002) to paying flat fees per song.

The cost of per song will continue to rise. We’re talking pennies here — each song will cost $0.0019 by 2010, but those pennies add up fast, as the operator of one online channel lamented. His fees would jump from $140 a month to $1,500 a month. Those fees are retroactive for 2006, meaning even tiny, basement-run stations or operations such as Seattle’s non-profit KEXP (, which focuses on promoting independent music, will have to fork over sums of money that could hamper their online efforts. In a statement responding to the CRB decision, the station’s executive director said, “Carrying this additional expense will likely require us to cut services or let go of projects.” The magazine Wired reported that “the smallest Web casters … likely will vanish unless the rates are overturned.”

The fees collected largely will go to record labels, but down the line, this decision will harm them, too — less exposure to music means lower CD and online song sales.

Congress should intervene and reverse this culturally asphyxiating decision.