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The Library of Congress' copyright board, which sets the royalty rates for statutory licenses, proposes doubling the amount webcasters pay for their statutory license in the next the few years.

The copyright office has yet to make the details public, but released the proposed schedule to negotiators late on Friday.

Statutory royalties were introduced four years ago, and cover only the public performance of sound recordings - webcasters must also make separate payments to collection agencies such as BMI and ASCAP for composition royalties.

Partial details, first reported on Kurt Hanson's RAIN newsletter, see the current rate of .0762 cents of per song per listener rising retroactively to 0.08 cents for 2006, 0.11 cents in 2007, and 0.14 cents, 0.18 cents and 0.19 cents by 2010.

Webcasters currently also have the option of following another royalty plan, called "aggregate tuning hour", and there's another schedule altogether for small commercial webcasters, introduced after the Great Webcasting Revolt of 2002, in which they pay a percentage of their overall revenue. (There's yet another royalty schedule for predominantly talk-oriented material.)

All these plans exclude webcasting of material by established radio broadcasters, and also exclude "interactive" broadcasters.

The details leaked so far give little idea of the final picture - many commercial broadcasters opt for the aggregate tuning hour schedule - except that royalties are set to rise steeply. Hanson described this as "undeniably a huge victory for the legal departments of record labels", represented by the Recording Industry Ass. of America, the RIAA.

More details are expected to emerge this week. ®

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