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Legislative Update

Posted in News on June 7, 2001

U.S. Senate Leadership Change

Senator Jim Jeffords' historic decision to switch party affiliation has changed the leadership of the U.S. Senate. The Democrats now have a slim margin of 50 to 49. Party control of the Senate has never before been switched mid-session, and therefore many things are being worked out about Committee control and membership. However, it is clear that Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont will be the new Chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee, which oversees copyright matters. Leahy has a long record of supporting authors' rights, and was one of the principal speakers at the CISAC (International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers) Congress in 1994 in Washington, DC.

Congressional Agenda, 107th Congress

The 107th Congress has introduced a variety of bills dealing with aspects copyright law. Most of the bills introduced, as drafted, do not represent substantive changes to current law - the sense of lawmakers across the board is that the current Copyright Law needs to be reviewed and examined before being altered. It has been universally acknowledged that the United States Copyright Law needs to be revised to reflect technological changes, specifically as they affect the use of music on the Internet. This leads to a number of challenges for American Performing Rights Organizations to face in the next year. As a consequence, they have held a number of high-profile hearings on the House and Senate sides of the Hill, hoping to educate themselves and others about the myriad of applications of United States Copyright Law.

Congressional Hearings

Online Entertainment: On Tuesday, April 3, 2001, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, United State Senate, held a hearing on: "Online Entertainment: Coming Soon to a Digital Device Near You". The hearing was chaired by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and fourteen people testified, representing many facets of the Entertainment Industry, including Hilary Rosen of the RIAA, Hank Barry of Napster, songwriter and performer Alanis Morissette, Jack Valenti of the MPAA, Don Henley of the Recording Artists Coalition, and many others. This hearing was set in the wake of the Napster ruling and the settlement of the MP3.com cases, and was immediately preceded by the announcement of the launch of "Duets" and MusicNet (the joint efforts of Bertelsmann, AOL-Time Warner, EMI in conjunction with RealNetworks, to bring a subscription music service to consumers over the Internet). The testimony presented attested to the importance of various types of current copyright law, and sought to educate lawmakers on technological advances and about the rights of creators. At the hearing, Senator Hatch stated that he did not feel establishing compulsory licensing of music on the Internet is necessary. BMI submitted testimony as part of the public record on this topic. You can read a transcript of the hearing at http://www.senate.gov/%7Ejudiciary/hr040301f.htm

Music On The Internet:

Music On The Internet: On May 17, 2001, The House Judiciary Sub-Committee on Courts and Intellectual Property held an Oversight Hearing on "Music On The Internet." Five people testified at the hearing, which was presided over by the Honorable Howard Coble (R-NC), Chair of the Sub-Committee. Rob Glaser, representing MusicNet and Real Networks presented the new Duets system that they plan to launch in August of 2001. Also testifying were: Edgar Bronfman, representing Vivendi International and the Universal Music Group, Robin Richards, representing MP3.com, songwriter/composer Michael Stoller, on behalf of the NMPA, and songwriter/composer Lyle Lovett on behalf of ASCAP. The controversy regarding which types of copyrights are affected by music downloads on the Internet is confusing to Members and the public. You can read a transcript of the hearing at http://www.house.gov/judiciary/4.htm.