The US Senate yesterday passed the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2009, following House passage 10 days ago. Once the Act receives the signature of President Obama, the law will go into effect, and give webcasting groups and the recording industry 30 days to reach a settlement (or settlements) on Internet radio music royalties for the use of sound recordings. While the parties did not need the Act to reach settlements for the period of 2011-2015, which is subject to a new royalty proceeding which is now in its early stages, the WSA extension was necessary to cover royalties for the period of 2006-2010, which are covered by the Copyright Royalty Board decision released in 2007. Without this extension, the rates in effect under the CRB decision (or the rates agreed to under settlements with broadcasters, certain very small webcasters and NPR, and announced earlier this year as authorized by the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008 ) would have to be paid for that period absent a successful outcome of the currently pending appeal.
Several groups which participated in the last CRB proceeding have yet to reach settlements, including the "Small Commercial Webcasters" (the independent pureplay webcasting companies), the large webcasters associated with the Digital Media Association, and noncommercial webcasting groups not affiliated with NPR. In the only statement made on the floor of the Senate before the unanimous approval of the Act, Senator Leahy, the Chair of the Judiciary Committee, cited the controversy over the rates set by the CRB decision, and stated that it was preferable that the parties involved in the case reach an agreement rather than having new rates imposed by the government (see his statement here). With the passage of this act, the parties now have that opportunity to reach a settlement of the royalties reaching back to 2006. We will see what settlements are announced during the upcoming 30 day period.