Here are some of the regulatory developments of the last week of significance to broadcasters, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.  Also, we include a quick look at some important dates in the future.

  • The Enforcement Bureau advised broadcasters (and other

The Copyright Royalty Board today published a Federal Register notice announcing that SoundExchange was auditing a number of broadcasters and other webcasters to assess their compliance with the statutory music licenses provided by Sections 112 and 114 of the Copyright Act for the public performance of sound recordings and ephemeral copies made in the digital transmission process by commercial webcasters. A separate notice to audit the company Music Choice, which also provides a digital music service usually delivered with cable or satellite television services, was also issued to audit their compliance both on webcasting and on their subscription music service which is subject to separate royalty rules set out in a different part of the same section of the Copyright Act and set through a different Copyright Royalty Board proceeding. A third audit notice has gone out to a company called Rockbot, a Business Establishment Service whose royalties are exclusively paid under Section 112 of the statute (see our article here about the CRB-set royalties for these services that provide music played in various food and retail establishments and other businesses).

SoundExchange may conduct an audit of any licensee operating under the statutory licenses for which it collects royalties.  Such audits cover the prior three calendar years in order to verify that the correct royalty payments have been made. The decision to audit a company is not necessarily any indication that SoundExchange considers something amiss with that company’s royalty payments – instead they audit a cross-section of services each year (see our past articles about audits covering the spectrum of digital music companies audited by SoundExchange here, herehere and here).  Audits are conducted by outside accounting firms who, after they review the books and records of the company being audited, issue a report to SoundExchange about their findings.  The company being audited has the right to review the report before it is issued and suggest corrections or identify errors.  The reports are then provided to SoundExchange and, if they show an underpayment, it can collect any unpaid royalties, with interest.  While, by statute, the notice of the royalty must be published in the Federal Register, the results of the audit and any subsequent resolution usually are not made public.
Continue Reading Copyright Royalty Board Announces SoundExchange Audits of Royalty Payments for Webcasters (Including Broadcast Simulcasts) and Other Digital Music Services

Last week, the Copyright Royalty Board published a Federal Register Notice announcing that SoundExchange was auditing broadcaster Alpha Media as well as Music Choice and Google to assess their compliance with the statutory music licenses provided by Sections 112 and 114 of the Copyright Act for the public performance of sound recordings and ephemeral copies

Each year, we write about SoundExchange issuing notices of their intent to audit various digital music services to review their royalty reporting and payment.  This year is no different, with Federal Register notices recently being issued to audit certain companies in various services, including satellite radio, webcasters, broadcasters who stream, and business

The recent Copyright Royalty Board decision (see my summary here) setting the rates to be paid by Internet radio operators to SoundExchange for the rights to publicly perform sound recordings (a particular recording of a song as performed by an artist or band) still raises many questions. Today, Jacobs Media Strategies published on their blog an article I wrote on the topic – discussing 5 things that broadcasters should know about music royalties. While the content of the article is, to some who are accustomed to dealing with digital music rights, very basic, there are many to whom the additional guidance can be helpful. The subject of music rights is so confusing to those who do not routinely deal with the topic – even to those who work in radio or other industries that routinely perform music and to journalists and analysts that write about the topic. Thus, repeating the basics can still be important. For those who click through from the Jacobs blog to this one, and for others interested in more information on the topics on which I wrote, I thought that I’d post some links to past articles on this blog on the subjects covered in the Jacobs article. So here are the topic headings, and links to where you can find additional information.

The new royalties set by the CRB represent a big savings for broadcasters. I wrote how the royalties represent a big savings for most broadcasters who simulcast their signals on the Internet. I provide more details about the new rates and how they compare to the old ones here.
Continue Reading 5 Things Broadcasters Should Know About SoundExchange Music Royalties

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

This week, several notices of the intent to audit the records of several webcasters and other digital music services were published in the Federal Register, indicating that SoundExchange was planning on having the royalty payment records of these services reviewed.  Notices were sent to services including Live365, iHeartMedia and CBS).  Those notices have prompted several calls asking what this is all about.  We have written before about these audits (see our article here).  It is a somewhat routine process, where each year SoundExchange picks several webcasters whose records it will have reviewed.  Under the rules adopted by the Copyright Royalty Board, SoundExchange can elect to audit a webcaster (or other digital music service – and some of the notices this week were for services that were not webcasters – one to a background music provider or what is referred to as a “business establishment service”, here).  SoundExchange can, and usually does, elect to review three years of records.  They can only review any service once for the same time period, so effectively a service can be audited only once every three years.

Under the rules, an independent CPA is to do the audit.  Once the audit is complete, it must be provided to the music service for comment.  Then, it is up to SoundExchange and the service to work out what to do if there are discrepancies identified by the audit with which the service does not agree.  The rules do not provide for any independent adjudicator to referee what happens if there is a disagreement.  SoundExchange pays for the audit, unless the audit determines that the service underpaid by 10% or more, in which case the costs can be transferred to the service.
Continue Reading SoundExchange to Audit iHeart, CBS and Other Webcasters and Digital Music Services