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First the gourmet brownies arrived in every House and Senate office, courtesy of MP3.com. Next came spiral-bound date books, complete with the MP3.com logo. Later this month, the online music service’s well-connected lobbyist plans to carpet-bomb Capitol Hill with a CD-ROM demonstrating online music technologies and detailing the issues surrounding the digital-music-copyright debate. “You’ve got to get their attention before you can educate them,” explains the lobbyist, Billy Pitts, a 25-year Capitol Hill veteran. As the recording industry prevails in its court fights with Internet music upstarts MP3.com and Napster, the battleground is shifting to Washington. Digital music lobbyists like Pitts are trying to persuade Congress and some federal agencies to change the law to allow for the legal downloading of copyrighted music. Last week, it appeared as if they were starting to have some impact. Senate Judiciary Committee officials announced a hearing scheduled for April 3 to examine the issues surrounding online entertainment and copyright law. Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, who chairs the committee, is a Napster sympathizer who already has opened the door to stripping the record industry of some copyright protections online. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the House Commerce Committee says Chairman Billy Tauzin, R-La., also plans to convene a hearing in hopes of acting “as a referee” in the increasingly contentious digital music debate. In a separate action, the U.S. Copyright Office, a branch of the Library of Congress, announced that it will open an inquiry into extending a century-old “compulsory license” of songwriting copyrights to cover digitally delivered recordings. Such a modified compulsory license would ensure that composers and publishers are paid royalties for music downloaded, at a rate set by Congress or the Copyright Office. The licensing would make it easier for online music companies, which now have to seek out licensing from every composer and author of music, in addition to licensing from record companies, before music can be sold via the Net. New-media interests are waging the battle for Congress in an attempt to transform Napster’s 64 million registered users into a credible political force. They argue that when the copyright laws were rewritten in 1998, Congress could not have foreseen the new technology that would enable consumers to download and share music and other forms of digital entertainment. “We don’t have a political action committee; we’re not holding fund-raisers,” said Jonathan Potter of the Digital Media Association, which represents 60 companies, including RealNetworks and Yahoo. While Napster seeks congressional intervention to keep its service operating — which appears unlikely — most of the other Internet music companies, who want to play by the labels’ rules, have their own concerns. Among them are difficulties in getting record companies to license music, and the need for more clarity about whether Internet music companies need to pay royalties on temporary copies of songs made during Webcasting. The digital insurgents are going up against the well-entrenched and well-financed entertainment lobby. During the 2000 election campaign, the RIAA gave Republicans and Democrats more than $355,000. The Digital Media Association, by contrast, donated not a dollar. Nonetheless, the RIAA appears to be gearing up for a fight in Congress, despite winning a federal appellate court ruling last month that found Napster violated record companies’ copyrights by allowing users to trade songs online. In addition, the RIAA recently put former GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole on the payroll and two weeks ago hired ex-Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, a confidant of President Bush. “We need to make sure that public policy leaders understand how this marketplace has developed,” said RIAA chief executive Hilary Rosen. To show that they mean business, online music companies have been hiring congressional insiders of their own. One star hire was Pitts, a former GOP strategist in Congress who defected from Disney last summer to work for MP3.com. And Napster recently wooed away Manus Cooney, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s chief counsel and a top Hatch aide. Cooney recently chaperoned Napster CEO Hank Barry as he appealed to key Senate Republicans and members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. But congressional staffers said Napster users haven’t exactly deluged their bosses with calls for change. E-mail messages about Napster have been coming in only by the hundreds since the appellate court ruling, compared with the 50,000 messages that flooded lawmakers’ inboxes following the original court ruling against Napster last summer. The recording industry, meanwhile, is worried about the security of music that is downloaded even under a legal arrangement. The concerns from all sides have left lawmakers with a plate full of issues. “If the sausage we turned out a few years ago isn’t working,” said one Senate Judiciary Committee aide, referring to the 1998 copyright law, “then maybe we need to remake it.” Related Articles from The Industry Standard: MP3.com Hit With Double Whammy Napster’s Day of Reckoning When the Digital Music Dust Clears, Will EMusic Be Left Standing? Copyright (c) 2001 The Industry Standard
Copyright Law in the New Millennium. March 20-April 2.

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