Broadcast Performance Royalty

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The FCC this week announced that it will vote on two items of interest to broadcasters at its next Open

A conditional settlement of the long-running litigation between Global Music Rights (GMR), a relatively new performing rights organization formed to license the public performance rights to certain musical works, and the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC) was announced this week.  The terms of the agreement are confidential, so we can’t comment on the specifics of the deal.  But each commercial radio station represented by RMLC should have received a proposed license agreement from GMR.  The settlement will only be effective if an undisclosed number of radio broadcasters agree to the terms of the agreement by January 31, 2022.  For stations that do not agree by that date, or if not enough stations opt into the agreement causing the settlement to fail, the press release about the agreement says that GMR has made no commitment to extend the current interim license (about which we wrote here) beyond its current expiration date of March 31, 2022.  Thus, stations would need to otherwise negotiate an agreement with GMR, pull GMR music from their stations, or risk a lawsuit for playing the music without permission.  If your commercial radio station did not receive a communication from GMR in the last few days, and if you play any GMR music and you are not covered by an independently negotiated agreement, you should discuss with counsel whether you should reach out to GMR to see why you were not offered a license.  Similarly, if not all your stations were included in the offer you received, discuss with counsel whether to communicate with GMR.

While we cannot comment on the specifics of the deal because it remains confidential, there are some observations that can be made based on the public statement released by RMLC and GMR.  One of the first questions is why the settlement is conditioned on enough stations agreeing to it by January 31.  First, it is important to note that the agreement by RMLC to any royalty with any music rights organization does not bind all commercial broadcasters, or even RMLC’s members, to accept the deals that it has negotiated.  See, for instance, the agreements in the last few years with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, all of which required broadcasters who wanted to be covered by the negotiated agreement to opt in by a date certain.  While a wide cross-section of broadcast companies is represented on the Board of RMLC which approved this agreement, the Board members do not bind their companies or the rest of the radio industry to accept the terms that were negotiated.
Continue Reading GMR and RMLC Announce Confidential Settlement on Music Royalties for Commercial Radio Stations – Broadcasters Must Decide Whether to Opt In by January 31

As 2021 wound down, there were significant developments on SoundExchange royalties for webcasters – including broadcasters who simulcast their on-air programming through IP channels (such as on their websites and on mobile apps).  While we covered many of these matters in our weekly Sunday updates on regulatory matters of importance to broadcasters, we thought that it would be worth summarizing all of the action in one place.  Most, but not all, of these developments follow from last year’s  Copyright Royalty Board decision  raising webcasting rates for 2021-2025 (see our article here summarizing that decision).

The CRB’s decision was published in the Federal Register in October 2021.  As of that date, all webcasters, if they had not already been doing so, should be paying the higher royalties ($.0021 per song per listener in 2021 for nonsubscription streams).    SoundExchange has appealed the CRB’s decision (presumably to argue the rates should have been set even higher), as have the NAB and the National Religious Broadcasters Noncommercial Music License Committee.  These appeals are pending and likely will be briefed and argued sometime in 2022.  If you have not trued up your payments (the increase in royalties was retroactive to January 1, 2021), consult your legal advisor as to the effect that these appeals may have on your responsibility for that true-up.
Continue Reading A Look at Developments in SoundExchange Webcasting Royalties (Including for Broadcast Simulcasts) From the End of 2021

As the holiday season comes to an end and 2022 comes into focus, broadcasters have several dates and deadlines to keep up with in January and early February.  We have noted below some of the important dates you should be tracking.  However, as always, stay in touch with your station’s lawyers and other regulatory advisors for the dates applicable to your operations.  We wish you a happy, healthy, and successful New Year – and remembering to track important regulatory dates will help you  achieve those ends.

Let’s start with some of the annual dates that always fall in January.  By January 10, full-power radio, TV, and Class A licensees should have their quarterly issues/programs lists uploaded to their online public file.  The lists are meant to identify the issues of importance to the station’s community and the programs that the station broadcast in October, November, and December that addressed those issues.  Prepare the lists carefully and accurately, as they are the only official records of how your station is serving the public and addressing the needs and interests of its community.  See our post here for more on this obligation.
Continue Reading January Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: Issues/Programs Lists; Digital LPTV Deadline; Audio Description Expansion; Children’s Programming, Webcasting Royalties; NCE FM Settlement Window; and More

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • Music licensing organization Global Music Rights (GMR) has agreed to a three-month extension of its current interim licensing agreement. GMR

According to a joint letter posted on the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC) website, GMR and the RMLC are discussing  a settlement of their long-running litigation over the royalties that the commercial radio industry will pay for the public performance of music written by GMR composers.  We last wrote about GMR here when, earlier this year, they last extended their interim license offered to commercial radio stations, with a substantial increase in the amount that stations needed to pay to remain licensed during the litigation.  The joint letter says that the interim license will be extended for another 3 months while the parties work on this possible settlement.  Stations will not receive any direct notice about the need to extend their licenses from GMR.  Instead, stations are to go to the GMR website at https://globalmusicrights.com/interimextension to complete a form to remain licensed after the end of December.

As background, GMR is a new performing rights organization. Like ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, it represents songwriters and collects royalties from music users for the public performance of these songwriter’s compositions. GMR collects not only from radio stations, but from all music users – it has already reached out to business music services that provide the music played in retail stores, restaurants and other businesses, and no doubt has or will license other companies that make music available to the public. Most songwriters represented by GMR used to be represented by ASCAP or BMI, but these songwriters have withdrawn from ASCAP and BMI and joined GMR, allegedly to attempt to increase the amounts that they are paid for the use of the songs that they have written. For radio, these withdrawals became effective in January 2017, when the old license agreements between ASCAP and BMI and the commercial radio industry expired.  Since then, radio stations have been signing interim licenses to play GMR music.
Continue Reading Another GMR Extension Offered for Commercial Radio Music Licenses – And a Possibility of a Settlement of the Litigation with the RMLC? 

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • In the last two weeks, many stations have discovered that links to their FCC-hosted online public inspection file no longer

The saga of Flo & Eddie seeking performance royalties for the pre-1972 sound recordings of their old band, the Turtles, seems to be finally reaching its end. For years, they have sued both broadcasters and digital media companies trying to exploit an ambiguity in copyright law over the status of pre-1972 sound recordings – songs as recorded by a particular band or artist before February 1972 when sound recordings first became subject to federal copyright law. While federal law still only conveys a performance right in sound recordings when those recordings are performed as a digital audio performance (e.g., through a streaming service or digital cable transmission), Flo & Eddie had argued that pre-1972 sound recordings remained covered by state laws, that some of those state laws provided a performance right, and that this  performance right extended to all performances, not just digital ones. Courts in other states had rejected that argument (see our articles on decisions in New YorkFlorida and Georgia), but the question of the status of the law remained unresolved in California. A court decision last week helps to resolve that issue, though intervening events have lessened its impact, so the decision has gone relatively unnoticed despite the extensive prior coverage previously devoted to this subject.

The decision was one of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, specifically related to XM Sirius royalties. In the decision, the Court conducted a searching review of the history of copyright law’s treatment of sound recordings, and found nothing in that history that would suggest that the California legislature, when adopting its law giving a creator the “exclusive rights” in these recordings meant to convey a public performance right in a sound recording – noting that the first use of that exclusive right language was in the 1870s, before there were sound recordings. The Court analyzed all the decisions in the interim and found none that suggested that there was a common law or California statutory right that created a public performance right in these recordings.  There was no suggestion that the California legislature had intended to depart from the practices that have otherwise generally applied throughout the US where no performance right has been paid for sound recordings except for the digital performance right that was adopted by Congress in the 1990s. The Court did note that, since the case first began, the Music Modernization Act extended the federal performance right in digital performances to pre-1972 sound recordings. So, the Court’s decision was limited in its application to disputes about whether a digital performance royalty was due for performances before that extension.  But there was one other issue not mentioned by the Court that makes this decision relevant to everyone who performs sound recordings even in a non-digital context, including broadcasters.
Continue Reading Court Decision Finds No California Performance Right in Pre-1972 Sound Recordings – Why It Was Still an Issue

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • On Friday, the FCC released its decision setting 2021 annual regulatory fees. In a win for broadcasters, the NAB and

Last week, Congressmen Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) introduced the American Music Fairness Act ( see their Press Release for more details) which would impose a new music royalty on over-the-air radio stations.  The royalty would be payable to SoundExchange for the public performance of sound recordings.  This means that the money collected would be paid to performing artists and record labels for the use of their recording of a song.  This new royalty would be in addition to the royalties paid by radio stations to composers and publishing companies through ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and GMR, which are paid for the performance of the musical composition – the words and music to a song. The new legislation is another in a string of similar bills introduced in Congress over the last decade.  See, for instance, our articles here, here, here and here on previous attempts to impose such a royalty.

Each time this idea is introduced, it has a slightly different angle.  In an attempt to rebut arguments that this royalty would impose an unreasonable financial burden on small broadcasters, the new bill proposes relatively low flat fees on small commercial and noncommercial radio stations, while the rates applicable to all other broadcasters would be determined by the Copyright Royalty Board – the same judges who recently released their decision to increase the royalties payable to SoundExchange by webcasters, including broadcasters for their internet simulcasts.  Under the bill, the CRB would review rates every 5 years, just as they do for webcasting royalty rates.
Continue Reading New Legislation to Impose Sound Recording Performance Royalty on Over-the-Air Radio – What Does It Provide and What Would the Royalty Cost?