Just a quick update on some recent stories we’ve had on CommLawBlog.  There’s a common thread running through all three.  A free CommLawBlog subscription to the first person who can find it…

  • The House of Representatives passed the Free Flow of Information Act by a voice vote late Tuesday night, less than a week after we reported to you that the House Judiciary Committee had done the same.  The fight for a federal shield law now moves to the Senate.  Unclear whether the Senate will take up HR 985  (introduced by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA)) or  focus on its own version, S 448, and try to reconcile the differences later.
  • Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) introduced the "Local Radio Freedom Act" in the Senate on March 30.  This is a nonbinding resolution which serves as formal opposition to the Performance Rights Act (HR 848 and S 379) legislation that would require over-the-air broadcasters to pay royalties for performance of sound recordings for the first time ever.  The introduction of the Local Radio Freedom Act comes in the midst of a flurry of activitiy in this area.  As we earlier reported, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Performance Rights Act on March 10. That legislation now has 36 co-sponsors in the House and 6 in the Senate supporting the institution of a  performance right for over-the-air broadcasting.  

    A key Congressman, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), Chair of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has called broadcasters to the negotiating table.  He’s quoted in the April 1 edition of Communications Daily as saying: "My advice:  It’s time to start talking."   The Communications Daily piece notes that this particular quote was part  of a more general statement opining that broadcasters should enter into negotiations regaridng royalty rates across all platforms, not just the over-the-air performance right.  

    We’re not sure how quickly broadcasters will respond, as they appear to have the upper hand for now:  the House version of the Local Radio Freedom Act (again — the opposition to a Performance Right), H. Con. Res. 49, now has 158 co-sponsors.  The new Senate resolution, numbered S. Con. Res 14,  boasts Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) as co-sponsors to Senator Lincoln.

  • Finally, the United States Supreme Court decided not to review the constitutionality of Virginia’s overly broad Anti-Spam law, which was declared unconstitutional on September 12, 2008 by the State Supreme Court.  Virginia’s lawmakers are now likely to take up the matter during their next session.