I'm probably missing some fine print somewhere, but exactly where does it say that independent artists/labels, the ones who aren't part of the RIAA, have to agree to make Webcasters pay royalties for playing their stuff. Sure it sucks that Webcasters will now have to pay a steep price to broadcast entrenched media, but why do we need to hear stuff released on the major labels and larger independent labels on every Internet radio station in existence (not to mention the homogenized offline AM/FM establishment)?
What Webcasters should have been doing (and should still be doing) is partnering with indie labels and artists that haven't joined the establishment, in an effort to work truly unheard bands into their lineups, in anticipation of what was sure to be an unfavorable ruling no matter what the Library of Congress decided the bottom line was. This would have secured their futures, minus RIAA represented labels, by making unknown acts already seem familiar to listeners. As someone in the process of launching a record label, I'd jump at the chance to get any radio station to play stuff I'm putting out.
The biggest wrong being done in the ruling is forcing broadcasters to pay back royalties on what was previously uncharted territory. Had any of the broadcasters maintained even the slightest inkling that one day they'd have to pay for what had been primarily a hobby, for historical broadcasts, we would have never seen a single Web station emerge in the first place. The LOC and RIAA should be chalking history up to experience and moving forward with pricing for the future, at whatever price they choose to set. If that prices stations current playlists out of existence, so what? Without the potential of a six-figure bill for play that happened ages ago, none of the Webcasters are any worse for wear, they all start at ground zero on a level playing field with the opportunity to give the RIAA the big fuck you they deserve. I'd be willing to bet that any Webcaster who started incorporating unknown artists, with sounds similar to whatever the station's format happens to be, would survive just fine. The International Webcasting Association could even stand by its willingness to pay a 3% royalty by signing contracts with any record label/independent artist willing to accept that condition. Unknown artists and labels aren't stupid; they know how hard it is to get heard in the first place. Sidestepping the RIAA stranglehold altogether would be a nice coup, facilitating a great step in bringing it closer to the end it deserves.
So now, argue the quality of the stations will suffer. I don't think so! For every band with a record deal, there are probably five more that sound just as good, but no one needed to bet on them, because the label already had a band with that particular sound. You might even get Web visionaries like Chuck D and Prince behind such a concept, if the terms were effectively flushed out. Of course, as I said, I'm sure there's fine print somewhere forbidding anyone to cross the line, so we're probably just doomed to no Web radio until someone sees the light and recognizes collecting any percent of zero is still zero.