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Berman-Coble letter makes SX's argument to SX

Posted on: 05/25/2007

Monday’s SoundExchange offer to small webcasters to reauthorize the rates and terms of the Small Webcaster Settlement Act of 2002 (with some unspecified modifications) was, according to the press release, supposedly spurred by a letter from Reps. Howard Berman (D-CA, right) and Howard Coble (R-NC, left), the Chairman and ranking minority member, respectively, of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property (See RAIN coverage here).

Copies of the Berman-Coble letter, apparently released by SoundExchange to various journalists earlier this week and subsequently obtained by RAIN, are surprisingly interesting.

Specifically, of the five-page document, almost four pages are devoted to a defense of the CRB decision! And a careful read of the document reveals that most of the Berman-Coble letter’s language almost precisely mimics the verbiage employed by the recording industry — i.e., on the SoundExchange website and in various other SoundExchange press releases.

In other words, the Berman-Coble letter, oddly enough, primarily argues to SoundExchange SoundExchange’s own precise arguments!

The letter also includes a previously-unannounced request by Berman and Coble for SoundExchange to achieve"resolution"… "no later than June 15, 2007" and notes that the writers "plan to advance legislation if we determine that it is the public interest."

A copy of the Berman-Coble letter in .pdf form is available here.

From Kurt’s blog:
"I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter"
hat first caught my eye in the Berman-Coble letter was this sentence:

"In return for compelling sound recording copyright owners to make their works available, the qualifying services agree to meet the terms and conditions of the compulsory license, which, inter alia, requires the periodic filing of statements of account and the timely payment of statutory royalties."

Odd. Why would Reps. Berman and Coble feel obligated to tell John Simson something like this that he obviously already knows?

The only answer I could come up with is that SoundExchange wanted Berman and Coble to make that point so they could use the quote in their press release.

Applying Occam’s razor
Let’s imagine for a moment that SoundExchange was feeling the pressure of growing support for the Internet Radio Equality Act — Congress besieged by e-mails, faxes, and phone calls from webcasters, musicians, and listeners; dozens of co-sponsors signing up for the bill; the NAB throwing in their support on Friday — and wanted to derail its momentum.

One optimal way of doing it might be to cut a deal with two classes of webcasters that are driving most of the pressure from constituents, yet comprise only a tiny portion of royalty payments received: Small webcasters and non-comms.

And what better way to present that plan than to say it was "at the request of Congress" (even though it was technically only at the request of two Congressmen who, based on their past voting history, likely would have opposed the Internet Radio Equality Act)?

And better yet, what if the request "from Congress" was a five-page letter filled with every point SoundExchange wanted made in support of the CRB decision? Score!..

For more, see Kurt Hanson’s "Radio And Music: A New Blog," here.

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