The U.S. Senate on Sept. 30 passed the Webcaster Settlement Act, legislation that lays the groundwork for internet radio stations to negotiate reduced royalty rates for the songs they stream over the web, reports CNET. The bill passed in the House of Representatives on Sept. 27 and is now headed to the White House, where President Bush is expected to sign it. "I’m relieved, optimistic, and grateful to our listeners," said Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora, a web radio station and music-suggestion engine. Webcasters have long complained that the royalty rate to stream music is too high for web radio stations to generate any profit. Representatives from internet radio and the music industry have been in negotiations for more than a year. Recently, the two sides have gotten closer to an agreement and both say they are confident a deal is within reach. The deal needs the blessing of Congress, because the parties seek a statutory license. Westergren, who emerged as a de facto spokesman for the bill, said that had it not made it through Congress, a long delay would have ensued before an agreement could be reached, a situation he says would have driven some Web stations out of business. That’s why webcasters and representatives from the music sector, including representatives of the Recording Industry Association of America, teamed up to get the bill passed…

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