The Librarian of Congress today announced the appointment of a new Chief Judge for the Copyright Royalty Board.  The new Chief Judge will be Suzanne Barnett, a superior court judge of King County in Seattle, Washington.  This is the first new judge on the three-judge CRB since the judges were first appointed in January 2006, soon after Congress first created the CRB. 

The law governing the Copyright Royalty Board requires that the three judges have different experience.  One must have a background in Copyright law, a position filled by Judge William Roberts.  A second must have a background in economics.  That is the position filled by Judge Stanley C. Wisniewski.  Each Judge is appointed for a six-year term, with the terms staggered so that one seat is subject to reappointment every two years.  The Chief Judge is required to be someone with "at least five years of experience in adjudications, arbitrations, or court trials."  The press release issued by the Librarian of Congress stated that Judge Barnett "hears cases of all types and presides over both jury and non-jury trials. Barnett "has served on all the King County calendars – civil, criminal, family, and juvenile – and at all three superior court locations."  Prior to her appointment to the Bench, she was an attorney in private practice for 16 years.

The CRB, in addition to setting the rates for sound recording performance royalties for Internet and satellite radio also sets the rates for mechanical royalties (see our post from earlier this week about a settlement of the current case to set those rates); rates paid to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC by noncommercial broadcasters; and the distribution of funds collected from cable and satellite television for the retransmission of copyrighted programming on broadcast television retransmitted by these MVPDs. 

The appointment of the new Judge becomes effective on May 20, and we understand that at least one royalty case that was supposed to begin its trial next week (the proceeding to set satellite radio royalties) has been postponed until after the new judge assumes her role at the CRB.  We will watch with interest to see how this change in the composition of the Board affects decisions going forward.

Note: Correction made 4/13, 3:45 PM eastern to correct terms of the Judges’ appointments.