Senator wants to cut royalty rate

Wants to attach amendment to 'orphan works' bill

WASHINGTON -- One of the entertainment industry's biggest Senate critics is attempting to kidnap a bill designed to clear up legal hurdles with so-called "orphan works" to overturn a royalty rate beneficial to the music industry.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., will attempt to attach his amendment that slashes the royalty rate webcasters pay to musicians and record labels to the orphan works bill the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on today.

Last year, the federal courts upheld the royalty rate set by a special copyright tribunal that set the rate and decided that most webcasters must pay it on a per-song basis.

Since then SoundExchange, the nonprofit organization that collects digital royalties, has been negotiating with webcasters in an attempt to end the bickering.

Those talks broke off this week with both sides accusing the other of bad faith. Since then, Brownback decided to attempt to get his legislation attached to the orphan works bill. His bill would slash the royalty that webcasters would have to pay to artists and labels.

"Remarkably, SoundExchange's first offer in three months was conveniently extended to DiMA members on Monday night, presumably just after they became aware of Sen. Brownback's planned amendment," said Jonathan Potter, executive director of the Digital Media Assn.

It's a charge SoundExchange denies, as executives there said both sides had agreed to meet again at the beginning of May.

"That's just ludicrous," said one SoundExchange official.
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