SIRA bill set to shake up royalty systems

July 2006

Internet, record labels, music publishing

A US House of Representatives panel has approved a digital copyright bill that critics say could criminalise home-use copying of music and video recording devices like TiVo. The Section 115 Reform Act (SIRA) attempts to overhaul the complex US system of mechanical royalties for rights owners (artists, songwriters, labels, publishers). SIRA proposes establishing a “blanket licensing” system in which those entities would apply for and receive licenses through a one-stop shop. Established by the Copyright Office, that body would act as a representative for music publishing companies with the greatest share of the market. Supporters of the bill argue that such an approach would make it easier for online music services to secure speedier approval for vast libraries of music, opening up the possibility for new market entrants, greater selection and lower prices. In a joint statement, the Recording Industry Association of America, the Digital Media Association and the National Music Publishers Association said they had “much to gain” from the legislation but still hadn’t reached “complete agreement on all aspects” of it. On the other hand the Electronic Frontier Foundation, for its part, encouraged its visitors to call their elected representatives and make their dissatisfaction known calling the bill “the worst bill you’ve ever heard of”. The Register has a nice take on the EFF’s opposition, saying that the bill actually brings about pretty much everything the EFF has been lobbying for: “zero priced licenses mean the large labels lose control over pricing – control they’ve built up over a century. However a coalition of 19 consumer-oriented advocacy groups and companies (including the American Association of Law Libraries, BellSouth, the Consumer Electronics Association and Public Knowledge) have claimed the proposal poses a threat to fair use. There is a worry that copyright royalties will increase and Congress could open the door for requiring licenses for reproductions in other areas, ranging from time-shift recordings on VCRs or TiVos to analog cassettes or CDs recorded from the radio and that such a development could lead to a dangerous erosion in fair use rights, which permit consumers to copy copyrighted material without permission for noncommercial purposes in certain circumstances.

From an article by Anne Broache at CNET

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