WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Copyright Royalty and Distribution Reform Act of 2004, the only major piece of copyright legislation to emerge from the 108th Congress, is on its way to the White House for the President’s signature.
The legislation, which was passed by the Senate Oct. 6, breezed through the House during the lame-duck session Nov. 17 with a unanimous 407-0 vote.
The Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel (CARP) reform bill provides a much-needed overhaul of the process by which statutory digital royalty rates are determined and distributed to copyright holders.
Under the bill, a full-time panel of “Copyright Royalty Judges” more knowledgeable about copyright law and practice will replace the current part-time adminstative judges. The part-timers were widely criticized for making inept judgments and creating exorbitant legal costs that shut out smaller players.
Groups all over the music industry spectrum applauded the passage.
“The new process will receive government appropriations,” says Ann Chaitovitz, spokesperson for the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, “so that small parties, non-profit organizations and artists can afford to participate in the proceedings.
“The changes in the timing of new proceedings,” she adds, “should now prevent any lapse after the expiration of the old royalty rate and before the determination of a new rate so that all payments from licensees should now flow continuously.”
Irwin Z. Robinson, chairman of the National Music Publishers Assn., states, “This act creates a better environment for all concerned for the negotiation and setting of rates.”
Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced the bill in the Senate. Rep. Lamar S. Smith, R-Texas, introduced the bill in the House; Reps. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., and Howard Berman, D-Calif., were co-sponsors.
Other industry copyright and anti-piracy measures failed to be passed amid the legislative logjam of the lame-duck session. Left behind were six bills incorporated in a copyright omnibus bill that were streamlined to remove objectionable sections during the session, but never got to full vote.
The so-called Induce bill, which targets operators of peer-to-peer services but was opposed by the tech and consumer electronics industries as being overreaching, never got out of Senate committee. It will be the subject of hearings early in the first session of the 109th Congress, which convenes in January.