U.S. Reps. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Mary Bono (R-Calif.) introduced last night (May 11) a bill to harmonize rate-setting standards for licensing digital rights in sound recordings. It would requir

U.S. Reps. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Mary Bono (R-Calif.) introduced last night (May 11) a bill to harmonize rate-setting standards for licensing digital rights in sound recordings.

The Platform Equality and Remedies for Rights Holders in Music Act of 2006—called the Perform Act—is a companion bill to the senate version by the same name introduced in April. It would require satellite, cable and Internet broadcasters to pay royalties based on the same standards and to pay at fair-market-value rates.

"One of America's greatest treasures is its intellectual property," said Berman. "People are listening to more music in more places than ever. Yet the music industry is in crisis, with its revenue declining from $14.5 billion in 1999 to $12.1 billion in 2004."

Both bills also include a provision that prohibits a "transmitting entity" from authorizing or enabling anyone to make a copy or recording of the transmission except for reasonable copying. The exception is intended to cover a user's fair-use right to copy under copyright law. The bills require the transmitting entity to use readily-available and cost-effective technological means to prevent music theft.

This latter provision addresses music industry concerns over new HD and satellite radio portable devices. The devices can record, disaggregate, create song libraries and store hours of music for as long as the user pays the monthly radio subscription fee. Satellite radio pays performance royalties, but it does not issue distribution royalties like download services pay for temporary download

"There is no mistaking the steady drumbeat from Congress on the issue of platform parity," said RIAA chairman/CEO Mitch Bainwol. "From the Senate to the House, from both the Judiciary and the Commerce committees, on both sides of the aisle, congressional leaders are stressing the need for a level playing field for digital radio services – one that ensures fair payment for artists and songwriters, fair competition among services, and protection for the integrity of the digital music marketplace."

An XM Satellite Radio spokesman says, "This bill would curtail new, innovative and legal devices that listeners want and that generate significant royalties for a broad range of artists and songwriters. It is the recording industry's attempt to gain leverage in negotiations between satellite radio and the labels."

"It is the obligation of the United States to carry out the vision of our forefathers by continuing to foster an environment that respects and protects intellectual property rights," said Bono. "While I strongly support technological innovation, the e-commerce marketplace only works if copyrights are protected and the creators and rightful owners are compensated. The Perform Act addresses this issue by ensuring that as technological innovation thrives, copyright laws are respected and the creators of content are fairly compensated."

The senate bill was introduced by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), and Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).