Each year, we remind webcasters about their obligations under various settlement agreements entered into with SoundExchange and under CRB decisions to make minimum payments and, in some cases, to file a Notice of Election to be covered under certain negotiated rates – all due by January 31.  All webcasters have minimum fee obligations due by January 31.  Many, though not all, Webcasters who have elected the the royalty rates set by many of the settlement agreements entered into pursuant to the Webcasters Settlement Act must also file an election notice with SoundExchange by January 31 to continue to be covered by those settlement agreements.   These agreements were entered into by groups of webcasters and SoundExchange, and allow the webcasters to pay royalties at rates lower than those rates set by the Copyright Royalty Board for 2011. 

While SoundExchange has, in the past, sent out reminders of these obligations to services that had paid in the prior year, sometimes these notices get lost, so Internet Radio operators need to remember to make these filings.  The original election forms filed under settlement agreements signed by the NAB and by Sirius XM cover the entire settlement period from 2006-2015, so no election form must be filed each year, though minimum fee payments must still be made.  Note that certain small broadcasters, who under the Broadcaster agreement need not comply with SoundExchange recordkeeping obligations, do need to file an election to certify that they still meet the standards necessary to count as a small broadcaster.  The WSA settlement agreements that cover Pureplay webcasters, Small Commercial webcasters, and certain Noncommercial Educational webcasters are all are entered into on a year-by-year basis (though, as noted below, there is a default in certain noncommercial webcasting agreements that, if you were covered in prior years, you will be continued to be covered in the current year, unless you opt out).  Thus, to continue to be covered, parties currently governed by these agreements need to file a Notice of Election to again be covered by these agreements by January 31.


Continue Reading Reminder: Most Webcasters Need to File With SoundExchange Minimum Fees and Many Need A Notice of Election of Webcaster Settlement Act Rates, All By January 31

The question of when a digital music service is “interactive” and therefore requires direct negotiations with a copyright holder in order to secure permission to use a sound recording is a difficult one that has been debated since the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was adopted in 1998. In a decision of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals released today, upholding a jury decision in 2007, the Court concluded that Yahoo’s Launchcast service (now operated by CBS) is not so “interactive” as to take it outside of the statutory royalty despite the fact that the service does customize its music offerings to the tastes of individual listeners. To reach its decision, the Court went through an extensive analysis of both the history of the sound recording copyright and of the details of the criteria used by Launchcast to select music for a stream sent to a specific user. By determining that the service is not interactive, the service need only pay the SoundExchange statutory royalty to secure permission to use all legally recorded and publicly released music.  Had the service been found to be interactive within the meaning of the statute, the service would have to negotiate with each sound recording copyright holder for each and every song that it wanted to use on its service to get specific rights to use each song – potentially resulting in hundreds of negotiations and undoubtedly higher fees than those paid under the statutory license.

The issue in the case turned on an analysis of the DMCA’s definition of an interactive service.  The statute defines an interactive service as one where a user can select a specific song or “receive a transmission of a program specially created for the recipient.” It is clear that Launchcast did not allow a user to request and hear a specific song.  But, by specifying a genre of music, and by specifying favorite artists and songs and rating other songs played by the service, a listener could influence the music that was provided to it.  Was this ability to influence the music sufficient to make it an “interactive service” and thus take it out of the coverage of the statutory royalty?


Continue Reading Court of Appeals Determines that Launchcast is Not an Interactive Service – Thus Not Needing Direct Licenses From the Record Labels

Here we are, almost a full month into the new year, and a number of important dates for broadcasters are already upon us.  As we wrote here, for instance, the payment of a minimum fee to SoundExchange by radio stations streaming their signals on the Internet is due today.  Lowest unit rates are in