House Panel OKs Digital Licensing Bill

By Anne Broache Staff Writer, CNET

A U.S. House of Representatives panel on Thursday approved a digital copyright bill that critics say could imperil home-use copying of music and video recording devices like TiVo.

The Section 115 Reform Act, or SIRA, introduced by Texas Republican Lamar Smith, attempts to overhaul a piece of copyright law that established a complex system of "mechanical royalties" for record companies, recording artists, songwriters and publishers in exchange for the right to reproduce and distribute their music.

There's a general consensus among politicians, the U.S. Copyright Office and the music industry that the law, first written in the era of piano music rolls, is in need of updates for a digital era. Right now, companies wishing to sell music have to negotiate separate licenses for each song's recording.

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.

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