The FCC yesterday released a Public Notice dealing with the upcoming March 29 commitment deadline for TV broadcasters who filed their applications back in January indicating a possible intent to participate in the incentive auction to surrender their TV channel so that the FCC can use it to repack the TV band to free spectrum to sell to wireless broadband users. In the Public Notice, the Commission made clear that station’s actual commitments to accept the FCC’s initial offers to give up their spectrum (either by abandoning their channel entirely by going out of business or sharing with a channel with another broadcaster, or by moving from a UHF to a VHF channel) will need to be filed between 10AM on March 28 and 6 PM (Eastern Time) on March 29. The January applications said that a broadcaster might be interested in giving up its current channel – filings made before the upcoming March 29 deadline make that commitment binding.

Yesterday’s notice announced that the FCC will be making available its “Initial Commitment Module” of the Incentive Auction software system at 10 AM on March 24 during a “preview period” for review by TV broadcasters. That is the piece of software on which the broadcaster makes its commitment to participate in the auction at the FCC’s initial offering price. Starting on Monday, February 29, the FCC will be making available an online tutorial to allow broadcasters to familiarize themselves with how the software will work. In addition, today the FCC announced that it will hold a workshop for broadcasters on March 11, starting at 10 AM Eastern Time, providing information on how to make these commitments.  These actions come while the FCC battles with some LPTV stations claiming that they should have been considered Class A TV stations and included in the auction – a legal battle that seems to be the last potential legal speedbump that could in any way derail the upcoming auction.
Continue Reading FCC Announces Previews for TV Broadcasters of Incentive Auction Initial Commitment Software; Denies Auction Stay Request from LPTV Applicant

Yesterday, a three judge panel of the US Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. denied the Emergency Motion for a Stay of the Internet Radio Royalty rates set earlier this year by the Copyright Royalty Board.  Our coverage of the stay motion can be found here and here.  Coverage of the entire royalty issue and the surrounding controversy can be found in various posts on our blog, here.  The denial of the stay means that, absent Congressional action or some voluntary agreement of the parties, the new rates will go into effect with payments for the period since the CRB decision being due on Monday, July 16.

The Court’s decision was very brief – in essence three sentences which merely stated that the moving parties had not met the high legal burden necessary for the Court to impose a stay.  A stay is an extraordinary legal action, taken by a Court as part of its equitable powers to insure that justice is carried out.  In order to justify a stay, a party must show the Court that there is a likelihood of success on the merits of the case (in other words, it must prove in a 20 page stay motion the likelihood that it will eventually win its appeal after full briefing and oral argument), plus it must prove that there will be irreparable harm if the stay is not issued (more than simply a loss of money – but harm that cannot be remedied if the appeal is eventually successful).  Weighing those factors, and balancing the competing interests of the parties and the public interest, the Court decides whether or not to issue a Stay.  In this case, as there was no more than the pro forma Order, we do not know what shortcomings the Court perceived in the Motion seeking the Stay, but no reasons are required as the Court can merely decide not to exercise its equitable discretion in a case.Continue Reading Court Denies Webcaster Stay

As the clock ticks down to the July 15 effective date of the royalty rates for Internet Radio as determined by the Copyright Royalty Board, webcasters held a Day of Silence today, June 26, to demonstrate to listeners what may well happen if the rates go into effect, and to galvanize their listeners to ask Congress for relief. With the Day of Silence bringing publicity to the Congressional efforts to put the webcasting royalties on hold and to change the standard applied by the Copyright Royalty Board so that it is not focused completely on a hypothetical "willing buyer, willing seller" model, it’s worth looking at some of the other issues that have arisen in the royalty battle in the last few days – including further pleadings filed in connection with the Motion for Stay currently pending in the US Court of Appeals, and the Congressional hearing that will occur on Thursday. 

As we’ve written before, there is currently pending a Motion for Stay of the CRB decision which was submitted jointly by the large and small webcasters and NPR.  Last week, the Department of Justice, acting on behalf of the Copyright Royalty Board to defend the royalty decision, and SoundExchange, each filed oppositions to the Motion for Stay. Each raised many of the same arguments. First, they argued that the large webcasters had procedurally forfeited their rights to challenge the question of the $500 per channel minimum fee by not raising their objection early enough in the CRB proceeding. The DOJ also argued that the damage from the minimum fee was speculative as there was no way to know how that minimum fee would be interpreted. The DOJ contended that, as it was unclear that SoundExchange would prevail on any claim that those Internet Radio services that produced a unique stream for each listener would have to pay $500 for each such stream, the question might end up in a lawsuit – but wouldn’t inevitably lead to the irreparable harm that is necessary for a stay to be issued.Continue Reading A Day of Silence, A Motion for Stay, and A Congressional Hearing – As the Internet Radio Clock Ticks Down

The past few days have been eventful ones in the battle over Internet radio royalties.  Appeals from the decision of the Copyright Royalty Board decision (see our memo explaining that decision, as well as our coverage of the history of this case) were submitted by virtually all of the parties to the case.  In addition, the National Association of Broadcasters, which had not previously been a party to the case, filed a request to intervene in the appeal to argue that the CRB decision adversely affects its members.  Also in Court, a Motion for Stay of the decision was submitted, asking that the CRB decision be held in abeyance while the appeal progresses.  The "appeals" that were filed last week are simply notices that parties dispute the legal basis for the decision, and that they are asking that the Court review that decision.  These filings don’t contain any substantive arguments.  Those come later, once the Court sets up a briefing schedule and a date for oral arguments – all of which will occur much later in the year.  As the CRB decision goes into effect on July 15, absent a Stay, the appeal would have no effect on the obligations to begin to pay royalties at the new rates.

The Stay was filed by the large webcasters represented by DiMA, the smaller independent webcasters that I have represented in this case, and NPR.  To be granted a stay, the Court must look at a number of factors.  These include the likelihood that the party seeking the stay will be successful on appeal, the fact that irreparable harm will occur if the stay is not granted, the harm that would be caused by the grant of a stay, and the public interest benefits that would be advanced by the stay.  The Motion filed last week addressed these points.  It raised a number of substantive issues including the minimum per channel fee  set by the CRB decision, the lack of a percentage of revenue fee for smaller webcasters, and issues about the ability of NPR stations to track the metrics necessary to comply with the CRB decision.  The Motion raised the prospect of immediate and irreparable harm that would occur if the decision was not stayed, as several webcasters stated that enforcement of the new rates could put them out of business.Continue Reading NAB Joins the Fray on Internet Radio – Appeals and a Request for Stay are Filed, And a Settlement Offer is Made to Noncommercial Webcasters