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House to Vote on CARP Royalty Reprieve

Internet webcasters facing massive copyright royalty fees could get a six-month reprieve if a bill introduced by House Judiciary Committee chairman James Sensenbrenner gets approval from Congress.

Sensenbrenner introduced the bill late on Thursday, seeking a six-month delay to the October deadline for royalty payments owed by webcasters.

Sensenbrenner is pushing for a vote on the bill as early as next week, warning that many small businesses will go out of business if the October deadline is enforced.

"I have introduced H.R.5469, a bill to help webcasters (Internet radio broadcasters) remain in business while they are resolving a commercial dispute with record companies. If my bill is not enacted prior to October 20, these small-business will be forced to shut down - even though their case is still on appeal," Rep. Sensenbrenner said.

A spokesman for the Judiciary Committee said a vote is expected as early as Tuesday next week because of the special circumstances surrounding the appeal to the CARP ruling, which is still before the courts.

If Rep. Sensenbrenner's bill is approved, it will also give webcasters more time to negotiate a settlement with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Sources tell internetnews.com the two sides are "not far away from a very fair deal" that will protect smaller webcasters from paying monumental retroactive royalty payments. "That's why this bill is so crucial. If a moratorium is placed before the October 20 deadline, it will give us time to work out a settlement," the source, who is familiar with the negotiations, said.

Briefs have already been filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to appeal the Library of Congress' acceptance of the CARP recommendation for a per-performance royalty fee of 0.07 cents.

Rep. Sensenbrenner said his bill solves the problem of webcasters paying fees while an appeal is still to work out the issue.

"Since the Librarian's decision is slated to take effect on October 20, and the Court of Appeals has yet to set a trial schedule, the webcasting industry that Congress sought to nurture in 1998 may become extinct before the litigation officially ends. H.R. 5469 solves this problem by staying the implementation of the decision for six months, providing both sides the opportunity to have their day in court," he said.

"It is only fair that private parties be allowed to pursue all legal remedies available to them before judgment is imposed," the House Judiciary chairman added.