You may have read somewhere that both the House and Senate have passed the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2009, readying it for Presidential signature. And if you did, you may have the following questions:
- Didn’t I read somewhere that a Webcaster Settlement Act was already passed some time ago?
- And didn’t I also read in CommLawBlog that various settlements have been reached to reduce the royalty payments made by webcasters – you know, the settlement between SoundExchange and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the other settlement between SoundExchange and the National Association of Broadcasters?
- If a Webcaster Settlement Act was already passed, and if settlement agreements have already been entered into, what difference would the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2009 make to me?
- It depends.
We’ve talked plenty in the past about the 2007 Copyright Royalty Board decision to increase the royalties paid for performance of sound recordings over the Internet. A number of efforts have been made to attempt to overturn these rates. Litigation and legislation have, so far, proven unsuccessful.
But throughout the process, webcasters were negotiating with SoundExchange (which represents the recording artists) regarding a voluntary settlement that would lower the rates. Under the United States Copyright Act and implementing regulations, any such settlement would have to be approved by Congress. To somewhat simplify that process, Congress has, on different occasions, "pre-approved" a settlement if the settlement occurred within a certain time frame.
That’s why you may recall the "Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008", which was signed into law on October 16, 2008 and approved any settlement reached by February 15, 2009. This led to the deals between SoundExchange and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and SoundExchange and the National Association of Broadcasters, which we explained to you in a nifty "choose your own adventure" type applicatlon back in March.
But those settlements covered only a portion of the webcasting community, all of whom had to be FCC-licensed stations.
The Webcaster Settlement Act of 2009, passed by the House on June 9 and the Senate on June 17 gives all other webcasters an opportunity to get in on the fun.
Some will be FCC-licensed broadcast stations. Noncommercial webcasters that were not eligible for the SoundExchange/CPB deal, especially religious broadcasters, are likely to fall in this category. It’s also conceivable that a settlement would be reached that could include those commercial broadcasters who did not elect to participate in the SoundExchange/NAB deal.
Standalone webcasters, especially small webcasters, will also want to pay attention to see if any more settlements are reached before the new law’s deadline of 30 days after President Obama signs the bill.
Check back for more information as settlements materialize.