The sound of silence will overwhelm online radio stations on Tuesday when U.S. webcasters observe a national “day of silence” to call attention to what they call regressive, destructive new royalty structures that take effect July 15. The Copyright Royalty Board is demanding 17 months of higher, retroactive royalty payments on that day.

CRB, an arm of the Library of Congress, is under pressure from music publishers and record companies to extract higher royalty payments. The recording industry is trying to recover from years of slumping album sales — the result, they claim, of illegal downloads. (Perhaps the fact that many pop/CHR albums have two good tracks and eight cruddy ones also has something to do with the sales decrease … nah!)

According to one estimate, royalties alone will be more than many webcasters generate in revenue, effectively putting them out of business. Nonprofit and hobby Internet stations are expected to suffer the most.

A previous royalty agreement that would have drastically hiked payments was overturned by the Librarian of Congress in 2005. Legislation has been introduced in Congress to vacate this royalty agreement as well.

Two of the biggest webcasters — Yahoo! and Live365 — are expected to participate in the day-long protest. On a related note, recording industry executives will mark Tuesday by tying little old ladies to railroad tracks, then twirling the ends of their mustaches and cackling gleefully.

If any Pittsburgh webcasters are going silent Tuesday, PBRTV would appreciate a “heads up.” Send press releases, news tips and cookies to pbrtv at a o l dot com.

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