Markey calls for royalty feud meeting

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WASHINGTON -- Congressional heavyweight Ed Markey is joining the chorus of those interested in the fate of the royalty that webcasters pay musicians and record labels for using their songs.

Rep. Markey, D-Mass., has summoned representatives of the music and webcasting industry to the Hill on Thursday for a round-table meeting aimed at pushing the parties toward a settlement.

Markey, chairman of the House Commerce Committee's Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee, is known as one of the leading lawmakers in the technology arena. His interest comes on top of examinations of the royalty by the House Judiciary Committee and the House Small Business Committee.

While aides to the lawmaker declined comment on the meeting, the Commerce Committee is usually seen as a less-hospitable venue than the Judiciary Committee. While the Judiciary Committee usually handles copyright matters, Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over the Internet. The Small Business Committee got involved because most performers and many of the small webcasters are smaller operations, often single-owner proprietors.

Music industry sources were unclear about what Markey hopes to accomplish. Both sides are negotiating a deal that could reduce the royalty for the smallest players in the webcast business. The royalty has been portrayed as a death sentence for those webcasters who aren't backed with the deep pockets of the big players such as Yahoo and Clear Channel (HR 6/26).

The controversy over the webcaster royalty escalated after a panel of copyright royalty judges substantially upped the payment in March. By some estimates, the change amounts to a 300% increase.

Webcasters nationwide have decried the change. They have sought to stop it from taking effect, asking a federal court to suspend the "true up" scheduled for SundayJuly15, when they would have to pay copyright holders what they owe under the new, higher royalty payment.

The royalty is split 50-50 between copyright owner, typicality a label, and the performer.
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