The U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. is being asked to consider whether the judges who serve on the Copyright Royalty Board, the body that sets the default royalty rates for Internet radio's use of copyright recordings, were appointed in accordance with constitutional law.
Intercollegiate Broadcasting Services, which represents educational institution-based broadcasters and webcasters, is appealing the CRB's final royalty determination for 2011-2015 (specifically, the $500 annual minimum royalty fee). As part of the appeal, the Appeals Court (just a step below the U.S. Supreme Court) this week heard an oral argument on the issue of whether the judges who make up the CRB were properly appointed.
Basically, the Appointments Clause of the Constitution requires "Principal Officers" of the government to be appointed by the president, while inferior officers can be appointed by the head of an executive department. However, the Copyright Royalty Judges were not appointed by the president, but by the Librarian of Congress, who himself is not head of an "executive" department (but a department of Congress).
So, what happens in regards to the CRB's past rulings should they be ruled unconstitutionally-appointed? Industry attorney David Oxenford examines the situation further at BroadcastLawBlog.com here.
Read BroadcastLawBlog's coverage of the Copyright Royalty Board's 2011-2015 webcast royalty determination here, and our run-down of the different specific deals different webcaster groups made with SoundExchange for royalties covering this period here.