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The third version of the notorious HR.5469 bill, the "Small Webcasters Settlement Act" has passed into law: after President Bush last night crayoned his distinctive 'X' onto the legislation.

The first version was intended to be a two-paragraph delay to the crippling CARP publishing royalties set by the Library of Congress. The second version was the result of a small group of commercial webcasters cutting a closed-door deal with the RIAA, and set various rates into law. At the urging of religious broadcasters, a third version was created by Senator Jesse Helms' office. This doesn't specify specific rates, but gives the parties until December 15 to come up with an alternative to those CARP royalties.

But it's as full of holes as a swiss cheese, say critics. And rather ominously, the SWSA is supported by the breakaway Voice of Webcasters and the RIAA.

Obviously, the RIAA isn't going to vanish in a puff of righteous smoke overnight, so some form of negotiated settlement must be reached. But by who, and for whom?

In an analysis on DIU, Brian Hurley writes:-

"This bill mentions negotiations that are to take place by December 15. Who are the webcasters negotiating? Do they represent all classes of webcasters? How will they be chosen? There is no mention of this by the RIAA, Sound Exchange, or Senator Helms' office.

"Will there even be an open process, or will they simply adopt the flawed agreement negotiated by the Voice of Webcasters and codified into version 2 of HR 5469? This RIAA press release strongly implies the latter.

The clock is once again ticking… ®

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