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SEVEN-YEAR STALLED
Damages Still at Issue as Labels, Artists
Meet to Compromise
"We tried to make nice, and it just didn’t work. It was good that there were some decision makers in the room, but no conclusion could be reached. Now its time to get some votes."

Those words come from California State Sen. Kevin Murray, the Recording Artists Coalition’s legislative sponsor in Sacramento. Can you say stalemate?

Whether Murray is actually surrendering the quest for a settlement with the RIAA or merely posturing for bargaining leverage is anyone’s guess. What is clear is that, following a Monday (4/22) powwow at California’s state capitol, the two sides are still far apart in the battle over the seven-year statute.

At the conference, California Senators John Burton (D-SF) and judiciary committee chair Martha Escutia (D-Montebello) offered an informal proposal to the two sides that would accept tacking and limit damages in all but a few cases.

The RIAA’s Hilary Rosen, Warner Music’s Dave Johnson, Universal Music’s Zach Horowitz and EMI’s David Munns were in attendance representing the label side, while managers Jim Guerinot and Irving Azoff were joined by attorneys Jay Cooper and Gary Stiffelman to rep the RAC.

The government wants to limit the number of albums that an artist has to deliver once seven years of employment expire. For example, if, over a seven-year period, an artist who is signed to a seven-album deal delivers only two albums during that time, rather than owe five albums, he may merely be required to either deliver two or pay the damages on two.

According to those in the know, the labels were adamant about rejecting the damages proposal, but the RIAA’s only comment was an emphatic "No comment."

The impression of those in attendance, however, was that the government wants the two sides to settle without government interference. The presiding pols let the attendees know that they had better things to do than mediate this battle. That said, one participant characterized the meeting as a "giant waste of time, and the government has no clue about the issues we’re dealing with."

Said one source, "The main problem is the record companies want to come out of this whole and do not want to budge one bit."

"Nothing really happened, and no agreement has been reached," Murray told HITS. "There was lots of discussion over the issues at hand." Of course, being a politician, Murray is only slightly more believable than Azoff.

According to sources at the confab, neither side has any idea what that bill is going to be, and most think that neither side will be happy if it is passed.

According to Murray, the two sides will continue discussions, though he opposes the possibility of another informational hearing on Friday. "Not having an agreement will not stop me from going forward with the bill, and I intend to do just that," said Murray. "How do you spell ‘political aspirations’?"

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