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January 11, 2006

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington Appoints Three Copyright Royalty Judges

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington today swore in three copyright royalty judges—James S. Sledge, Stanley C. Wisniewski and William J. Roberts—who will oversee the copyright law’s statutory licenses, setting rates and determining the distribution of royalties.

The judges were appointed in accordance with the Copyright Royalty and Distribution Reform Act of 2004, which became effective in mid 2005. They will oversee statutory licenses, which are licenses that permit qualified parties to use multiple copyrighted works without obtaining separate licenses from each copyright owner. The duties of the judges will include determining and adjusting the rates and terms of the licenses and determining the distribution of royalties from the statutory license royalty pools administered by the Library of Congress.

At the Library of Congress ceremony this morning, Billington said, "It is particularly appropriate that the Copyright Royalty Board is a part of the Library of Congress. The Library has had a long tradition for more than a century and a quarter now of administering the copyright law." He also applauded Congress as a leader in cultural preservation. "To preserve the rich variety of private creativity is a unique feature of this Library, this legislature and, of course, of the Copyright Office; beyond that, the copyright law is fundamentally a law about culture and the Library is one of the nation’s pre-eminent cultural institutions."

The Copyright Royalty and Distribution Act of 2004, which became effective on May 31, 2005, phased out the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel system and replaced it with the Copyright Royalty Board made up of three copyright royalty judges who will serve six-year terms. With this initial appointment, the term lengths will be staggered. Sledge will serve six years, Wisniewski four years and Roberts two years, all subject to reappointment.

James S. Sledge will serve as chief copyright royalty judge. He is a recently retired U.S. bankruptcy judge from the Northern District of Alabama. Sledge has served as chair of the Judicial Division of the American Bar Association, the largest judges’ organization in the world, and chair of the National Conference of Federal Trial Judges. Sledge also served for 12 years on the Alabama State Council on the Arts, including two years as chairman. He has been a director of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, an Alabama advocacy captain for Americans for the Arts, and a director on the regional Southern Arts Federation, representing Alabama.

Wisniewski will serve four years as a copyright royalty judge with expertise in economics. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Catholic University of America and a J.D. from University of Maryland School of Law. As an attorney, Wisniewski has represented a variety of clients in litigation, arbitration and administrative proceedings. He has provided expert economic testimony in federal courts, before private arbitration panels and before U.S. Senate and House committees. For more than 20 years, Wisniewski has served on the American Arbitration Association list of commercial arbitrators dealing with contract disputes in regard to employment contract terms, partnership agreements, franchise arrangements and government contracts with concessionaires.

Roberts will serve two years as a copyright royalty judge with expertise in copyright law. Roberts began his legal career in the Copyright Office in 1987. A graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, he served as an attorney advisor in the Copyright General Counsel’s Office and was promoted to senior attorney for compulsory licenses shortly after Congress abolished the Copyright Royalty Tribunal and replaced it with the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel. He was a Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel attorney for the entire 12-year history of the panel. Since the inception of the Copyright Royalty Board, Roberts has served as interim senior attorney. Roberts is an adjunct faculty member at the George Mason University School of Law where he teaches copyright law.

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PR 06-010
ISSN 0731-3527

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