The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and SoundExchange have reached an agreement on the Internet radio royalty rates applicable to stations funded by CPB. While the actual agreement has not yet been made public, a summary has been released. The deal will cover 450 public radio webcasters including CPB supported stations, NPR, NPR members, National Federation of Community Broadcasters members, American Public Media, the Public Radio Exchange, and Public Radio International stations. All are covered by a flat fee payment of $1.85 million – apparently covering the full 5 years of the current royalty period, 2006-2010. This deal is permitted as a result of the Webcaster Settlement Act (about which we wrote here), and will substitute for the rates decided by the Copyright Royalty Board back in 2007.
The deal also requires that NPR drop its appeal of the CRB’s 2007 decision which is currently pending before the US Court of Appeals in Washington DC (see summary here and here), though that appeal will continue on issues raised by the other parties to the case unless they, too, reach a settlement. CPB is also required to report to SoundExchange on the music used by its members. In some reports, the deal is described as being based on "consumption" of music, and implies that, if music use by covered stations increases, then the royalties will increase. It is not clear if this increase means that there will be an adjustment to the one time payment made by CPB, or if the increase will simply lead to adjustments in future royalty periods.
It is also unclear why the agreement covers only the current royalty period, and not the period from 2011 through the end of 2015, which was permitted by the Webcaster Settlement Act. As we’ve written, the proceeding to determine the royalties for the next 5 years begins with the filings of Notices of Intent to Participate on February 4. Thus, if the full deal does not cover that period, NPR will be right back in a proceeding to determine royalties almost immediately.
The deal also seems to cover all streaming that complies with the statutory license (it is not interactive, it meets the statutory complement limiting the number of songs by the same artist can be played in a given period and sets other limitations, such as limits on pre-announcing when songs will be played – see our memo here). So there appear to be no limits on covered stations setting up web-only streams, or streaming HD-2 and HD-3 streams, without any additional SoundExchange royalty obligations.
The signing of this deal also raises the question of whether there will be other deals under the Webcaster Settlement Act between now and the February 15 deadline. Will there be a Valentines Day gift for non-CPB webcasters? Stay tuned.