Act would replace judges with full-time panel.

The Senate today (Oct. 6) passed the Copyright Royalty and Distribution Reform Act of 2004.

The bill, H.R. 1417, which has already passed in the House, provides a much-needed overhaul
of the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel, the process by which statutory digital royalty rates are determined for distribution to copyright holders.

The bill would replace the current part-time adminstrative CARP judges with a full-time panel more knowlegable about copyright law and practice. The part-timers have been widely criticized for their judgments and for creating high legal costs that shut out small players.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., added an amendment to the bill that broadens the discovery phase for challenges.

Speaking on the Senate floor prior to the passage, Hatch said: "I will refrain from going into detail about this highly technical bill -- which many would find about as interesting as watching astroturf grow -- and will simply express my firm belief that it addresses many of the legitimate concerns
expressed by the stakeholders."