New Legislation Could Save Small Webcasters

Legislation introduced by Rep. James Sensennbrenner (R-WI) late last week aims to save small Webcasters by temporarily delaying the Webcasting royalty fees for six months that are due to be paid Oct. 20.

Sensennbrenner introduced the legislation in the House last Thursday and it is due to be submitted by the Judiciary Committee under suspension tomorrow. A bill under suspension is a non-controversial bill that can be voted on and passed quickly. As the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sensennbrenner was able to introduce the bill under suspension and skip the committee hearings that are usually part of the process, according to Sara O'Connell, a press secretary for Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA), who introduced the Internet Radio Fairness Act in July.

She says the bill will be voted on in the House tomorrow and could be passed immediately.

"I applaud Chairman Sensennbrenner for recognizing the urgent need to stay the imminent execution of Internet radio and give both sides a chance to work out a fair, equitable solution," Inslee says. "By delaying the royalty payment deadline for six months, Sensennbrenner's legislation (H.R. 5469) will allow the appeal of the royalty rate to run its course. Congress will then be able to assess whether the process fulfills the intent to promote the Internet radio industry and fairly compensate copyright owners. Sensennbrenner's legislation is a six-month delay of a payment deadline, not a release from the obligation of webcasters to provide fair compensation for artists."

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The Recording Industry Association of America, which seeks the fees on behalf of artists and record labels, calls the proposed legislation "a surprising development considering how productive our discussions with the Webcasters have been."

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