WASHINGTON — A frustrated MPAA topper Jack Valenti said Friday that the time has come for music publishers and religious broadcasters to settle their differences and allow Congress to move forward with a proposal to extend the current copyright term by another 20 years.

Valenti said it is “humiliating to be held hostage” to the disagreement over royalty fees. Also allied in the stand-off against the ASCAP and BMI is the powerful restaurant lobby, which wants to reduce the license fees its members pay for background music.

The dispute over licensing fees is holding up action on a Motion Picture Assn. of America-backed proposal to extend the copyright term from life plus 50 years to life plus 70 years. Valenti wants the change so that U.S. copyright law will be compatible with copyright terms of the European Union.

Copyright extension is just one of the issues related to intellectual property that Valenti and other lobbyists for content-rich industries are urging Congress to resolve. Also on the table is the effort to ratify an international agreement on copyright protections for properties on the Internet. The U.S. was among 96 countries agreed to implement the World Intellectual Property Organization agreement late last year.

Another outstanding issue is the struggle over digital piracy between content industries, including the movie and recording biz, and Internet access companies such as the telcos and America Online. America Online and the Baby Bells want to reduce their exposure to liability for copyright piracy conducted over their networks. But Valenti warned that without strict accountability “thievery” will rule the Internet.

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