Recent press reports have talked much about a Texas church that decided to put on a production of the musical Hamilton – both live and streamed via YouTube.  The church not only put on the performance of the musical, but also adapted the script to include material with religious themes not included in the original version.  Lin-Manual Miranda, the creator of the musical, was reported to say that, following the discovery of the unauthorized performances, “now the lawyers do their work.”  But just what did the church do wrong?  This case serves as an illustration of how copyright issues pervade society – and these issues are often ignored until an improper use is discovered by a rightsholder or their representative. At that point, the user often gets a quick education in the significant potential penalties they face from ignoring the law.

Like all other copyrighted works, among the rights given to creators of a musical like Hamilton is the right to consent to the public performance of that work.  We have written how that right to consent to public performances is in some cases restricted by statutory or blanket licenses, where the government (either directly, through the Copyright Royalty Board for public performances of sound recordings and the use of musical compositions by noncommercial broadcasters, or indirectly through antitrust consent decrees or settlement agreements that apply to ASCAP, BMI and, in some instances, SESAC – see our article here on some of the issues with these rights).  There are other statutory licenses giving, for instance, cable and satellite television providers the rights to retransmit broadcast stations in exchange for the payment of statutorily set fees (see our articles here and here for some examples of the issues with these statutory licenses). For most other copyrighted works, like plays and musicals, that right to restrict the public performance of a work is not restricted by statutory licenses.  And the writers of theatrical works are diligent in enforcing their copyrights.  So every junior high school performance of The Music Man, or community theater performance of Rent, should be licensed by the representatives of the copyright holders in these works.
Continue Reading A Church Gets Called Out for Adaptation of “Hamilton” – Looking at the Copyright Issues

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 has requested comments on a proposal for a new Content Vendor Diversity Report. A public interest group has

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 rejected a request that it reconsider its December 2020 decision to end a proceeding to set aside one

In our summary of last week’s regulatory actions, I was struck by a common thread in comments made by several FCC Commissioners in different contexts – the thread being the FCC’s role in regulating Internet content companies.  As we noted in our summary, both Republican commissioners issued statements last week in response to a request by a public interest group that the FCC block Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.  The Commissioners stated that the FCC had no role to play in reviewing that acquisition.  Twitter does not appear to own regulated communications assets and thus the FCC would not be called upon to review any application for the acquisition of that company.  The Commissioners also noted concerns with the First Amendment implications of trying to block the acquisition because of Musk’s hands-off position on the regulation of content on the platform, but the Commissioners’ principal concern was with FCC jurisdiction (Carr StatementSimington Comments).  In the same week, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, in remarks to a disability rights organization, talked about plans for more FCC forums on the accessibility of Internet content to follow up on the sessions that we wrote about here.

The ability of the FCC to regulate internet content and platforms depends on statutory authority.  In holding the forums on captioning of online video content, the FCC could look to the language of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, which included language that asked the FCC to look at the accessibility of video content used on internet platforms.  In other areas, the FCC’s jurisdiction is not as clear, but calls arise regularly for the FCC to act to regulate content that, as we have written in other contexts, looks more and more like broadcast content and competes directly with that content.
Continue Reading Does the FCC Regulate Internet Content and Companies? 

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.

  • Follow field testing by GeoBroadcast Solutions of its zonecasting system, the FCC opened a new comment period for interested parties

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 released a Public Notice announcing that it is soliciting public comment on the recent tests of

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, and a look ahead at an important deadline next week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • New FCC sponsorship identification rules that impose obligations on almost

On December 2, 2021, the FCC held a forum on the accessibility of video programming delivered through online platforms (a recording of the event is available on the FCC website, here).  What is perhaps most notable about this forum is that it looked at whether the FCC could extend its authority over online platforms to include accessibility obligations which, thus far, have only been implicated when a broadcaster already subject to FCC accessibility obligations repurposes its programs for Internet use (see, for instance, the FCC’s significant fine imposed in a consent decree when Pluto TV, which is owned by Viacom CBS, rebroadcast certain content that had already been broadcast on television with captions).  One of the questions identified in the Public Notice announcing the Forum is whether the FCC has the authority to expand accessibility obligations to online platforms.

The seeming importance of the session could be seen from the introductory remarks by FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and Senator Ed Markey.  Senator Markey was one of the proponents of the Twenty First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA).  In his remarks, he discussed the importance of taking the reforms that have been adopted for television programming and extending them to the Internet, given that so much video programming and viewership is now migrating to those platforms.
Continue Reading FCC Forum on Accessibility of Online Video Programming – Looking Beyond the Regulation of Broadcasters 

While Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror and the holiday season is upon us, broadcasters cannot ignore the regulatory world until the new year, as much is going on in December.  Below are some of the several important regulatory dates and deadlines in the coming month that you may need to deal with before the celebrations begin.

By December 1, all licensees of commercial and noncommercial full power TV, Class A TV, low power TV, AM radio, and FM radio stations must submit an ownership report that details the licensee’s ownership structure as of October 1, 2021.  The FCC has warned that there will be penalties for stations that do not file these reports.  Licensees with ownership structures that include parent entities must also file a report for each of those entities.  An informational session run by FCC staff is archived, here, and answers to frequently asked questions are available, here.  See our blog post covering ownership reporting, here.
Continue Reading December Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: Ownership Reports, License Renewal Filings, EEO Filings and Reporting, Ancillary or Supplementary Service Fees, Political Advertising Reports, 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.

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