Broadcast Performance Royalty

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

  • The American Music Fairness Act, proposing to enact a sound recording performance royalty for over-the-air broadcasters, was introduced in

There are normally a host of regulatory obligations at the beginning of February, but because of technical issues with the FCC’s online public file and LMS systems, many February 1 dates, as well as some January regulatory deadlines, have been extended to late February.

Due to technical problems that affected FCC filings throughout the month of January, the FCC last week issued a Public Notice extending the deadlines for all filings in the FCC’s LMS or online public file systems that were due in late January and early February.  The new deadline for these filings is February 28, 2023.  This new deadline applies to TV license renewal applications (including the associated Equal Employment Opportunity Report (Form 2100, Schedule 396)) for television stations, LPTV stations, TV translators and Class A stations in New York and New Jersey (which had been due February 1); Annual Children’s Programming Reports (which had been due on January 30); and EEO Public File Reports for broadcast employment units with 5 or more full-time employees in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Oklahoma (reports that normally would have had to have been uploaded to a station’s public file by February 1).  Quarterly Issues Programs lists for all broadcast stations had been due to be uploaded to the public file by January 10, but that date was initially extended until January 31, and the deadline has now been further extended to February 28 by last week’s Public Notice. Note that the Public Notice is broad, stating that any public file document due to be uploaded or any FCC application to be filed through LMS must be filed by February 28.  Notwithstanding the extension, licensees should not wait until the last minute to upload documents, as the intermittent problems that have plagued the systems could persist for some time and make meeting even the extended deadline problematic, especially if you wait for the last minute to try to file.  For more details about the extension and about other technical issues with the FCC’s filing systems, see the article we recently published on this subject. 

February 28 is the deadline by which EAS participants must file their EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) Form One.  Filing instructions are provided in the Public Notice issued by the FCC earlier this month (see also our articles here and here).  All EAS Participants – including Low Power FM stations (LPFM), Class D non-commercial educational FM stations, and EAS Participants that are silent pursuant to a grant of Special Temporary Authority – are required to register and file in ETRS, with the following exceptions:  Analog and digital low power television (LPTV) stations that operate as television broadcast translator stations, FM broadcast booster stations and FM translator stations that entirely rebroadcast the programming of other local FM broadcast stations, and analog and digital broadcast stations that operate as satellites or repeaters of a hub station (or common studio or control point if there is no hub station) and rebroadcast 100 percent of the programming of the hub station (or common studio or control point) are not required to register and file in ETRS.  Carefully read the Public Notice and the form to make sure that all necessary information is properly uploaded.

Continue Reading February Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Renewal Applications, EEO Reports, Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, Children’s Programming Reports, Copyright Fees for Webcasters, ETRS Form One, and More

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

  • The FCC issued a Public Notice extending the deadlines for all filings in the FCC’s LMS or online public file

The Copyright Royalty Board yesterday published in the Federal Register the proposed rates for the public performance of musical compositions by noncommercial broadcasters for the period 2023 through 2027.  The rates reflect settlements between ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and GMR with various organizations representing noncommercial broadcasters. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting agreed to one set of rates paid to cover NPR and PBS affiliates. The NRB (the religious broadcasters’ organization) has a Noncommercial Music License Committee that agreed to another set of rates that apply to non-NPR radio stations not owned by colleges and universities, setting out rates that these noncommercial stations pay to each of these rights collection agencies. For these radio stations, the rates are based on the population served by each noncommercial station. College and university-owned stations can take advantage of a third set of rates, based primarily on the number of students in the school with which the station is affiliated.  Comments and objections, if any, to these proposed rates are due on or before February 27, 2023.

Commercial broadcasters have royalty rates that are to be paid to these performing rights organizations (or “PROs”) set not through the Copyright Royalty Board but instead through varying processes.  ASCAP and BMI are subject to antitrust consent decrees (see our articles here and here on arguments about those decrees).  The decrees provide that, if the PRO cannot reach an agreement with representatives of the commercial radio industry (usually the Radio Music License Committee – see our article on RMLC here – although commercial religious broadcasters also negotiate rates with these entities through the NRB), a US District Court judge in New York will hold a trial, acting as a “rate court” to determine the amount for reasonable rates.  ASCAP and BMI are currently negotiating with the RMLC on new rates for commercial broadcasters.  SESAC is also subject to antitrust settlements with both the RMLC and the TV Music License Committee.  If SESAC and the committees cannot reach agreements, an arbitration panel sets the rates (see our articles here and here on radio rates set as a result of this process).  After prolonged litigation with GMR to have their rates reviewed in some manner, the RMLC last year dropped its lawsuit seeking that relief and GMR now has no oversight as to the rates it charges (see our article on the GMR license that resulted).  Noncommercial broadcasting, however, under Section 118 of the Copyright Act, has its PRO obligations set by the Copyright Royalty Board and, like this year, the result is almost always a settlement between the parties (even though, theoretically, the Board could hold hearings to set the rates if the parties had not agreed to the rates). 

Continue Reading CRB Releases Proposed ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and GMR Rates for Noncommercial Broadcasters

Royalties paid for the use of music by broadcasters and digital media companies, and other issues about music rights, can be an incredibly dense subject, with nuances that can be overlooked.  I participated in a CLE webinar earlier this week, sponsored by the Federal Communications Bar Association, where we tried to demystify some of the issues in music licensing (see description here).  I moderated a panel on the Hot Topics in Music Licensing, talking about the broadcast performance royalty, the appeal of the webcasting royalty decision, issues about the proliferation of performing rights organizations seeking royalties for the public performance of musical compositions, and more theoretical issues about the entire process of clearing music for use by broadcasters and other businesses.  To highlight some of the issues, and some of the tensions in the world of music royalties, I put together the attached article.  Hopefully, it provides some context on the relationship between some of these hot topics, and gives some food for thought as to how these issues can be addressed. 

As 2023 begins, our “Hot Topics” panel will look at some of the current legal and policy issues in music licensing that may be relevant to the communications industry.  Most of the issues we will discuss are ones that have been debated, in one form or another, in copyright circles for decades.  But, as copyright can be so complicated with many stakeholders with differing interests, the chances of any final resolution to any of these issues may well be small.  This article is meant to put some of those debates in context, as many of the specific issues, in one way or another, are intertwined. 

The issue that likely will be the most contentious this year (and has been for decades) is the continuing effort of the recording industry to establish a public performance right in sound recordings that would apply to non-digital performances.  For over 25 years, recording artists and the record labels (which usually hold the copyrights to popular recordings) have had a right to a performance royalty for digital performances.  Broadcasters who stream an online simulcast of their programming, along with webcasters and others who make non-interactive digital transmissions, must pay a performance royalty, generally to SoundExchange.  The rates to be paid are set by the Copyright Royalty Board.  But in the US, over-the-air broadcasters, restaurants, bars, clubs, retail establishments, and others who publicly perform music pay only for the performance of the musical compositions (the “musical work”), not for the performance of the song as recorded by a particular artist (the “sound recording”).  That has been a point of contention for a century, almost from the moment when recorded music first appeared, but the issue has become particularly heated in the last two decades, once the sound recording public performance right was established after being mandated by copyright legislation in the late 1990s.

Continue Reading  An Overview of the Hot Policy Topics in Music Licensing

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

  • The FCC has sent an e-mail, apparently to all broadcasters, regarding the cybersecurity of broadcast stations that use the DASDEC

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will be holding a “mark-up session” (see this notice of the session) where they will be considering the American Music Fairness Act which proposes to impose a sound recording performance royalty on over-the-air broadcasting.  This would be a royalty paid to SoundExchange to benefit the recording artist and copyright holder (usually the record company) and would be in addition to the royalties already paid to composers and publishing companies through royalties paid to ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and GMR.  A mark-up session considers amendments to the bill and could lead to the committee’s approval of the bill.  If approved by the Committee, the bill would still need to be approved by the full House of Representatives and the Senate (and signed by the President) before it became law.  With the current session of Congress coming to a close at the end of the month, the proposed legislation would need to start over in the Congress.  Thus, unless the bill is tacked on to some must-pass legislation in this “lame duck” session of Congress, any action this week by the committee will likely simply be a marker for action in the new year.

The NAB has already issued a statement about the session, pointing out that a majority of the House members have signed on to the Local Radio Freedom Act stating that they will not vote for this legislation.  The statement also reiterates the NAB’s interest in working on a “mutually beneficial solution” to the issue of the broadcast performance royalty (an interest in a possible solution we wrote about here).  Nevertheless, with this issue back on the table, even if only in a symbolic way, we thought that we should re-post our summary of the American Music Fairness Act and the issues that it raises that we wrote last year, when the legislation was first introduced.
Continue Reading House of Representatives Judiciary Committee to Consider American Music Fairness Act Proposing Sound Recording Performance Royalty on Over-the-Air Broadcasting

Global Music Rights (GMR) has sued three radio groups for allegedly playing GMR catalog songs but not paying the associated public performance royalties to GMR.  As we have written many times, GMR is a performing rights organization (a “PRO”) representing what they term in the complaints filed against these companies “an elite roster of just over 100 songwriters.” The complaints specifically note that the songwriters include Bruce Springsteen, Bruno Mars, Drake, Pharrell Williams, John Lennon, and The Eagles.  The full list of songwriters and songs represented by GMR is available on their website here.  As these songwriters are no longer represented by ASCAP, BMI or SESAC, for a company to publicly perform any of these songwriters’ music, they either need a license from GMR or they need to directly license the music from the songwriters or their agents (or fit into one of the limited exemptions that we wrote about here, exceptions that would typically not cover commercial radio broadcasting).

The lawsuits seek $150,000 for each copyrighted work that was allegedly infringed – the maximum set out by the Copyright Act for “statutory damages,” i.e., damages that can be collected even without providing evidence of actual harm caused by the alleged copyright infringement. The allegations against one of the companies suggest that the company played over 100 GMR compositions more than 20,000 times without obtaining a license.  While courts have discretion to order far lower statutory damages than those being sought here, even the threat of such damages has been enough to put many of the original file-sharing music sites out of business. Of course, in this case, these damages are being sought not from some company that provides unauthorized, unlimited downloads of copyrighted music, but from radio companies that presumably are already paying other performing rights organizations for the use of music.
Continue Reading Lawsuits Filed Against Three Radio Companies Alleging That They are Playing Global Music Rights Songwriters Without a License – Background for the GMR Claims  

A new Chief Copyright Royalty Judge of the Copyright Royalty Board has just been named by the Librarian of Congress.  According to the Press Release announcing his appointment, David Shaw will fill that position after having previously served as an administrative law judge on the International Trade Commission for over 10 years.  There, he heard complex cases dealing with detailed financial matters – experience that sounds relevant to the kinds of cases he will be deciding on the CRB.  The Copyright Royalty Judges decide cases determining the marketplace value of music when  setting royalty rates, and that look at the relative value of programming when deciding the distribution of cable royalties to program copyright holders.  In addition to ITC experience, Shaw was a judge at the Social Security Administration and, according to his biography, worked in the General Counsel’s office at NPR early in his career.  With the appointment of this new Chief Judge, we thought that it would be worth looking at some of the specific areas in which the CRB makes decisions that affect media companies.

The CRB is principally charged with rates and distributions for copyrights governed by a “statutory licenses.”  A statutory license is created by Congress when it is believed that individual negotiations between copyright holders and copyright users would either be unduly complex so as to be almost unworkable or where an efficient market would not otherwise exist.  Essentially, the statutory license means that the copyright owner must license the work that they own – they cannot restrict its use – if the user pays the royalties set by law or established by the CRB and abides by the conditions for use set out in the law.  See our article here about music statutory licenses and our articles here and here on some of the issues with the TV statutory licenses.  The conditions of use are often carefully restricted so as to only cover very specific uses under the statutory license (see our article here on the conditions placed on the use of music under the statutory license for webcasting – the public performance right for sound recordings used by noninteractive services discussed below).

Continue Reading New Copyright Royalty Board Chief Judge Named – Looking at the Issues Considered by the CRB of Importance to Media Companies

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

  • The US Court of Appeals this week determined that the FCC’s requirement that broadcasters confirm by searching DOJ and FCC