Just back from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, National Music Publishers' Assn. president/CEO David Israelite sounds refreshed and ready for what could turn out to be a busy autumn. Front and center on his agenda: an October Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) decision that could change the royalty rates paid for digital permanent downloads, physical product and ringtones. Israelite and the NMPA will also be watching the floor of the U.S. Senate, where they hope to see a vote on the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act of 2008. A similar version of the bill passed the House 410-11 in May.

Even if neither of those decisions go his way, Israelite already has at least one key victory in 2008 to celebrate: the passage of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, which includes a provision directing publicly funded institutions of higher education to inform students and employees about policies and procedures related to illegal downloading and distribution of copyrighted materials.

Israelite acknowledges that many college kids are fully aware of iTunes and other legal sites but choose to download anyway. But he says that a tougher crackdown is needed from university administrators. "It's important the Higher Education Act send a signal that this is a joint responsibility not just of the music industry but also of those institutions that are providing the environment to help combat a random problem of theft," he says.

In an interview with Billboard, Israelite spoke about these and other priorities on the NMPA agenda.

What do you expect to happen when the CRB makes its ruling this fall?

It's very hard to predict what the three judges are going to do, but after having sat through most of the trial, I feel very good about the case that was put on, on behalf of songwriters. My expectation is that the CRB will come back with a decision that will be no worse than the status quo. [It's] impossible to predict what they're going to do, but I really don't think that the case was made by the record labels or the digital media companies, who were seeking significant cuts to the current rate.

What are the best- and worst-case scenarios to come out of the CRB hearings?

The best case scenario would be….

Click here for the full interview, including Israelite’s thoughts on which bills would strengthen the ability of law enforcement to deal with illegal piracy, how to fight illegal downloading at higher education institutions, the reason collecting societies are having record breaking years, and more.