New Copyright Royalty Board Chief Judge Named

Seattle superior court judge Suzanne Barnett to serve six-year term
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The Librarian of Congress has named a new chief royalty judge for the Copyright Royalty Board, which helps settle disputes and facilitate distribution of copyright payments, including between cable and broadcast programmers and distributors.

Suzanne Barnett, a superior court judge in Seattle, will succeed current chief judge James Sledge effective May 20. It is a six-year term.

Barnett joins William Roberts and Stanley Wisniewski on the board. All are required to have at least five years of experience in arbitrations/adjudications or court trials.

She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary with a law degree from Washington and Lee University.

Last month, the board distributed $750 million in payments to cable and satellite programming copyright holders, including broadcasters, that had been held up in private disputes.

The judges are part of a statutory body overseeing payments by satellite and cable operators under compulsory licenses. Those blanket licenses allow them to retransmit broadcast programming without negotiating individual payments to the various content providers for each program. Instead they pay into a pool of money then distributed either by private agreement or determination of the judges. Copyright holders must file annually for their payments, either by private agreement or a decision by the judges if there are disputes.

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