Following last week's unexpected hold on legislation that would give Webcasters making less than $1 million annually a break on digital performance royalties, the Recording Industry Association of Ame

Following last week's unexpected hold on legislation that would give Webcasters making less than $1 million annually a break on digital performance royalties, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has stepped in to assist affected small Webcasters, Billboard Bulletin reports.

In an E-mail Friday, the RIAA informed Webcasters that it would authorize record labels and other sound recording copyright owner members of the SoundExchange royalty collection unit to accept the minimum annual payment of $500 and waive any late fees. Without the RIAA intervention, beginning yesterday (Oct. 20), small Webcasters would have been liable for retroactive royalties back to 1998 at the full royalty rate of 70 cents per song per 1,000 listeners -- a reality that would have forced many to cease operations.

According to a spokesperson, Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) placed a hold on the legislation after hearing from home state religious broadcasters and non-religious broadcasters who wanted additional information on the bill's impact. The spokesperson said Helms was concerned about "a back-room deal basically written by the recording industry."

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says he will lead an effort in the weeks to come to gain passage of the legislation when the Senate reconvenes Nov. 12. The bill has already passed in the House. Sources say Leahy, who was in Vermont, "went ballistic" when he heard the Senate bill did not pass.

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