The chairman of the Senate's Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property has given players in the music and digital-media industries involved in reforming the nation's music licensing laws for the

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The chairman of the Senate's Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property has given players in the music and digital-media industries involved in reforming the nation's music licensing laws for the digital age a few more months to resolve their differences.

At the end of a July 12 hearing on the issue, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, told witnesses that while he was pleased by the work of the players and the Copyright Office so far in forging a "working draft" bill, he needed consensus from the groups before he would introduce a Senate bill. As a result, he said, he will call another hearing. No hearing date was announced.

Without consensus on how to reform or ditch the antiquated compulsory license, set out in section 115 of the Copyright Act, observers say it will continue to impede music licensing for legitimate online services. As a result, impatient consumers will continue to illegally grab music off the Internet because turtle-slow licensing deals hold up more legitimate music on the legal services.

Hill insiders say that with the Congressional August recess just around the corner, a looming Judiciary Committee fight over Supreme Court nominees and a planned recess in October, the earliest time the Senate panel could schedule another hearing could be at the beginning of the next session in January.

Hatch's more considered reaction to the problem -- typical of the Senate's more reflective approach to legislation -- puts the ball back in the House-side court. A bill is expected to be introduced soon by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Tex., who has held a series of hearings on the issue.

Portions of the music publisher community -- the National Music Publishers' Assn. and its subsidiary the Harry Fox Agency, ASCAP and BMI -- have put forth a "uni-license" proposal that would merge the public performance and the mechanical right into one license, thus creating a one-stop shopping for online subscription services.