09.30.08

On H.R. 7084, The Webcaster Settlement Act Of 2008

I am pleased that the Senate has passed the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008, a short but important bill for all of us who love to listen to music online.  I have long championed the development of new business models for transmitting music to the public, and I have been delighted to see the webcasting community grow and prosper.  From tiny operations serving the smallest of musical niches, to collegiate stations playing cutting edge performers, to large established webcasters providing a whole new array of services to listeners, the online music world has truly blossomed in the last 10 years.  But with all new growth comes growing pains, and we also must be constantly vigilant to ensure that the development of new business interests does not come at the expense of settled property rights. 

 

When webcasting was even younger, I sponsored the Small Webcasters Settlement Act of 2004, which established a Copyright Royalty Tribunal to replace the old Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel as the administrative body for determining – in the absence of privately negotiated contracts – the royalty rates to be paid by online music providers to the performers who hold the copyrights in that music.  The new system has seen its first adjudications, and this legislation reflects the need for a slight readjustment in that system.  The bill simply extends the time to next February during which the parties can negotiate their own rates, even after the CRB proceeding, and will permit any deal that is negotiated by that time to bind the interested parties. 

 

I am not, in the normal course, a proponent of legislative readjustments like this one, but I understand the advisability of this particular extension.  I will not, however, sanction repeated returns to Congress if webcasters are again dissatisfied with the results of a system that they urged upon us in 2002, and which they applauded when it was created.  The parties on both sides of these agreements – the webcasters and the copyright owners – would be well advised to consider these negotiations seriously, and to behave appropriately.  The rights of our creative artists are the life blood of the entire music industry, including that of the online music providers, and we all owe them respect.

 

I trust the parties when they tell us that the time extension will allow them to come to terms that will ensure mutual benefit to them, and ultimate benefit to all the listeners, like myself, who enjoy music transmitted over the Internet.  I am pleased the Congress has passed this measure before recessing.

 

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