James Sledge will serve as chief judge.

The first copyright royalty judges were sworn in today (Jan. 11) in Washington, D.C., filling roles created by copyright reform legislation that went into effect last May. James Sledge will serve as chief copyright royalty judge. Stanley Wisniewski and William Roberts will serve as copyright judges.

The Librarian of Congress appointed the three individuals under the Copyright Royalty and Distribution Reform Act of 2004. The legislation phased out the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel (CARP) system, which consisted of temporary arbitrators appointed each time issues needed to be resolved over statutory royalty rates and distribution of royalty fees.

The new law replaced these ad hoc arbitration panels with the Copyright Royalty Board made up of three permanent copyright royalty judges.

Duties of the copyright royalty judges will include determining and adjusting rates and terms of statutory licenses under copyright law. The judges will also determine and distribute royalties from the statutory license royalty pools administered by the Library of Congress.

Sledge, initially appointed to a six-year term, recently retired as a U.S. bankruptcy judge in Alabama, where he served since 1991. He presided over a heavy volume of cases while working with national judges' organizations. He was chair of the American Bar Assn.'s judicial division, the largest judges’ organization in the world.

Sledge served 12 years on the Alabama State Council on the Arts. He was also a director representing Alabama on the regional Southern Arts Federation, a director of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and Alabama advocacy captain for Americans for the Arts.

Wisniewski, initially appointed to a four-year term, has more than 30 years of experience as an economist, attorney, entrepreneur, educator, arbitrator and manager. He has served as an expert economic witness in federal courts and before private arbitration panels. He was also a member of the Maryland State Banking Board, appointed by the governor in July 2000.

Roberts, initially appointed to a two-year term, began his legal career in the Copyright Office in 1987. He was senior attorney for compulsory licenses shortly after Congress abolished the Copyright Royalty Tribunal and replaced it with the CARP process.

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