The head of the National Music Publishers' Assn. told House lawmakers yesterday (March 8) that the group is open to licensing changes and has entered into discussions with labels and online companies

The head of the National Music Publishers' Assn. told House lawmakers yesterday (March 8) that the group is open to licensing changes and has entered into discussions with labels and online companies that could lead to a blanket license for subscription services.

"We've come a long way in the last year," said David Israelite, the new president/CEO of the NMPA. "We're open to new ideas, including the concept of blanket licensing -- starting with subscription services first."

He added: “I am pleased to report that NMPA has been engaged in discussions with the Digital Media Assn. and the RIAA regarding the licensing of [digital phonorecord downloads] by online subscription services.”

The NMPA's new position could put an end to five years of acrimony between online music service companies and music publishers over licensing. It could also signal an end to repeated complaints to Congress by the online companies and their trade group, DiMA, over NMPA's interpretation of the section of copyright law that deals with the mechanical compulsory license for reproductions of songs.

Online companies have complained that music publishers interpret the section to require more than one payment per distribution -- an additional fee for making an "ephemeral" copy of a work to store on a computer server, for example. DiMA’s executive director calls this "double-dipping."

Record companies responded positively to Israelite's calls for change. Hearing witness Larry Kenswil, president of Universal Music Group's eLabs, told lawmakers that the changes at NMPA are so significant that "if we got together and worked day and night, we could probably come back to you in a few weeks and we’d have worked something out."