“If it walks like a duck, it’s a duck” is a colloquial way of describing the traditional way U.S. regulators have approached treatment of novel services or applications. In other words, irrespective of technology approach, a long distance call between two points is treated the same way, no matter what networks deliver the call.
That became a messier issue with the advent of Internet Protocol product substitutes that are not feature-for-feature replacements for traditional voice.
Now an Austrian court has ruled that online radio streaming does not actually constitute “broadcasting”, and therefore listeners do not need to pay a license fee.
The Verwaltungsgerichtshof (Federal Administrative Court) ruled that computers with an Internet connection, but without radio reception modules such as a TV card or radio card, are categorically “not radio-broadcast receivers”.
The court therefore concluded that GIS (Gebuehren Info Service), which collects Austria’s mandatory licence fee, could not collect a device fee.
Around 3.5 million Austrian households pay fees between €78 for radios and €260 for televisions used in the home.
The number of such anomalies, exceptions and exclusions are bound to grow. It is hard to squeeze new wine into old bottles, to use another aphorism.