The NAB has announced agreements with Sony and Warner Music Groups to waive certain of the statutory requirements for broadcasters who stream their over-the-air signals on the Internet. The NAB had entered into similar agreements with all of the major labels and major independent labels back in 2009 (see our summary here). But those agreements expired at the end of 2015, giving rise to fears among some broadcasters that some standard broadcast programming could not be streamed on the Internet (see our article here about those concerns). These agreements, at least as to Sony and Warner, mitigate those fears. This article provides a summary of some of the most important aspects of the new waivers.
These waivers cover requirements set forth in the Copyright Act which broadcasters, especially those who stream, may have difficulty meeting. Generally, the waivers provide the following:
- Relief from the statutory requirements as to “ephemeral copies” of sound recordings that require that such recordings can be kept for no longer than 6 months. If that rule was to be applied strictly, stations that make a copy of a sound recording in furtherance of their streaming (or for their over-the-air broadcasts), by for instance making a copy of a song so that it can be stored in their digital music storage systems, could keep those copies for only 6 months. After that time, the station would be required to delete any copy of a song and re-record it if they wanted to keep a copy in their music library for another six months.
- The agreements waive the performance complement, which would otherwise limit a station that is streaming its signal from playing more than 2 songs from the same CD or album in a row, or playing more than 3 songs in a row from the same artist, or from playing more than 4 songs from the same artist (or from the same box set) in a 3-hour period. The waivers allow stations to exceed these limits, only if they continue to play music in a manner consistent with normal broadcast operations. However, even with the waiver, no station can play more than half an album consecutively.
- The waivers allow stations to announce upcoming artists, only if they don’t announce the specific times that specific songs will be played.
- The waivers allow some relief from the obligation that a broadcaster streaming their on-air programming on the Internet identify in text on their website or mobile app the name of the song that is playing, the artist who performs the song, and the album from which that song is taken. That relief is limited to circumstances where, from time to time, a station can’t easily provide such textual information.