multichannel video statutory license

In the last week, copyright audits have been in the news.  Several broadcasting publications noted the recent announcements by the Copyright Royalty Board that SoundExchange has decided to audit several companies that pay it royalties, including webcasters (including Pandora and a number of broadcasters in connection with their webcast operations), business establishments services (those who provide music for stores and other businesses – DMX and Muzak) and music services provided by cable and satellite video providers (e.g. DMX and Muzak).  It was also just announced in the Federal Register that the sports leagues plan to audit a number of MVPDs to determine if the MVPDs have been accurately paying the royalties owed the sports league for the sports programming on TV stations carried on certain satellite and cable systems.  What are these audits, and why are they being announced by publication in the Federal Register?

When media companies buy a piece of equipment, or a building in which to house their operations, they usually know in advance how much their purchase is going to cost, and in the vast majority of cases, they get a bill specifying the price.  Even the purchase of some programming is easily quantifiable – either as a fixed fee per month, or some barter arrangement or other set fee.

But, in many other licensing transactions, the fees are not as easily quantifiable.  For certain movie packages or other syndicated video programming, the number of times that a program is played is not necessarily clear in advance.  For music, it is even more complicated, as a digital music service never knows how much music it is going to use when it enters into a licensing agreement.  In the case of programming carried by an MVPD on a distant signal basis pursuant to the compulsory copyright licenses under Sections 111 and 119 of the Copyright Act, the MVPD in advance won’t know how many subscribers it will have or exactly what programming the stations that it carries will program.  So in all of these cases, the user of the copyrighted material does not get a bill.  Instead, the user has to tell the “seller” of the rights (or its representative) how much they owe.  Because the buyer is reporting how much they think that they owe, the rights organizations usually have the right, by contract or by law, to audit the user to decide if the user paid the right amount.
Continue Reading SoundExchange Audits of Digital Music Companies and Sport Leagues Audits of MVPDs Published in the Federal Register – Understanding Audit Rights Under Statutory Licenses

Over-the-top video systems, using the Internet to transmit over-the-air TV signals to consumers, are back in the news. Last week, a US District Court Judge in the Central District of California, in a case involving FilmOnX, an Aereo-like service that had been involved in many of the court decisions that had preceded the Supreme Court’s Aereo decision, suggested that such platforms can get that public performance right through the statutory license provided by Section 111 of the Copyright Act – the same section of the Act that allows cable systems to retransmit broadcast signals without getting permission from every copyright holder of every program broadcast on those stations. Just last year, we were writing about the Supreme Court decision in the Aereo case, where the Court determined that a company could not use an Internet-based platform to stream the signals of over-the-air television stations within their own markets without first getting public performance rights from the stations themselves. The new decision raises the potential of a new way for these Internet services to try to get the rights to rebroadcast TV signals.

The FilmOn decision was on a motion for summary decision, and is a very tentative decision – the Judge recognizing that he was weighing in on a very sensitive subject, going where both the FCC and the Copyright Office have thus far feared to tread, and disagreeing with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that had held the opposite several years ago in the Ivi decision. The FilmOn decision is a preliminary one – subject to further argument before the Judge at the end of the month. Even if adopted as written, the judge recognized the potential impact of his decision, and the fact that it contradicted Ivi and other decisions. Thus, the decision stated that its effect would be stayed pending an immediate appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. So, even if finalized, we have not seen the last of this argument yet.
Continue Reading A Compulsory License for Internet TV Platforms to Retransmit Broadcast TV? One US District Court Considering FilmOnX Seems to Think So

We wrote last month about the fact that the Copyright Office has initiated a major proceeding to reexamine the statutory licenses that allow cable systems and satellite distributors to retransmit the programming of local television stations.  A statutory license allows retransmission of television signals by these multichannel video providers without getting the consent of copyright owners of each and every program (and program elements contained in the programming, e.g. music) that a broadcast station may feature in its programming. As part of this proceeding, the Copyright Office promised to hold public hearings on these licenses. The Office has announced the schedule for these hearings, to be held from July 23  to July 26. Parties interested in participating in the hearings need to register their interest on or before June 15. The Copyright Office’s notice about the hearing, which contains instructions on the process for filing a request to testify, can be found here.

Written comments in this important proceeding are due July 2. The Copyright Office has also encouraged interested parties to file suggested questions to be posed to the participants in the hearing by July 2.  Reply comments in the case are due on September 13.  The Copyright Office has also encouraged parties to respond to the testimony presented at the hearing in their reply comments. 


Continue Reading Copyright Office to Hold Hearings on Video Statutory Licenses