Music biz won’t sink teeth into swappers

Grokster's off the hook for now

Don’t just do something, sit there.

That was the message music industry reps delivered to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, as lawmakers looked for ways to be useful in the wake of the Supreme Court’s unanimous smackdown of file-swapping networks Grokster and Streamcast.

At a hearing packed with observers but only a handful of senators, RIAA prexy Cary Sherman told the committee, “At this time, we’re not seeking any legislation related to Grokster.”

Sherman’s hands-off recommendation was seconded by others at the witness table, including frequent industry critics such as Consumer Electronics Assn. head Gary Shapiro.

In a decision handed down in July, the Supreme Court said file-swapping networks can be held liable if they intentionally induce their users to commit copyright infringement. Ruling sent the case back to the trial court, where it’s still pending.

One area that could see some action in the wake of the Grokster ruling is the effort to reform the licensing of music rights for online distribution.

Currently, an above-board download service like iTunes must license so-called mechanical rights from music publishers, as well as public performance and reproduction rights for each recording on its service.

Efforts to negotiate a blanket system that would simplify the clearance process among online services, the RIAA, the Harry Fox Agency and ASCAP/BMI have dragged on for two years.

On Wednesday, U.S. registrar of copyrights Mary Beth Peters told the senators that the Grokster decision offered an opportunity for Congress to break the impasse through legislation.