With the Copyright Royalty Board now in the early stages of the next proceeding to consider webcasting royalties (see our article here) as well as other proceedings including the distribution of cable and satellite television royalties to TV programmers (see these CRB notices), the Chief Judge of the CRB, Suzanne Barnett, announced her

With the reopening of the Federal government (at least for the moment), regulatory deadlines should begin to flow in a more normal course.  All of those January dates that we wrote about here have been extended by an FCC Public Notice released yesterday until at least Wednesday, January 30 (except for the deadlines associated with the repacking of the TV band which were unaffected by the shutdown).  So Quarterly Issues Programs lists should be added to the online public file by January 30, and Children’s Television Reports should be submitted by that date if they have not already been filed with the FCC.  Comments on the FCC’s proceeding on the Class A AM stations are also likely due on January 30 (though the FCC promised more guidance on deadlines that were affected by the shutdown – such guidance to be released today).

February will begin with a number of normal FCC EEO deadlines.  Commercial and Noncommercial Full-Power and Class A Television Stations and AM and FM Radio Stations in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Oklahoma that are part of an Employment Unit with 5 or more full-time employees need to include in their public files by February 1 the Annual EEO Public Inspection File Reports.  TV stations in New Jersey and New York in Employment Units with 5 or more full-time employees also need to file their FCC Form 397 Mid-Term EEO Reports.  While the FCC appears ready to abolish that form (see our article here), it will remain in use for the rest of this year, so New Jersey and New York TV stations still need to file.  Note that the FCC considers an “employment unit” to be one or more commonly controlled stations serving the same general geographic area and sharing at least one common employee.
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Last week, we noted that the Copyright Royalty Board had a notice on its website saying that, because of the government shutdown, it could not publish its notice soliciting petitions to participate in WEB V, the case to set webcasting royalties paid to SoundExchange by noninteractive webcasters (including broadcasters who simulcast their programming on the

Update – January 24, 2019 – the notice seeking petitions to participate has been published in the Federal Register, setting a filing deadline of February 4, 2019.  See our article here for more details.

In our summary of January regulatory issues for broadcasters, we suggested that the Copyright Royalty Board this month might start

We typically publish our article about upcoming regulatory dates before the beginning of each month, but this month, the looming FCC shutdown and determining its effect on filing deadlines pushed back our schedule. As we wrote on Friday, the effect of the shutdown is now becoming clear – and it has the potential to put on hold a number of the FCC deadlines, including the filing of Quarterly Children’s Television Reports due on January 10 and the uploading of Quarterly Issues Programs lists, due to be added to station’s public inspection files on January 10. The FCC-hosted public inspection file database is offline, so those Quarterly Issues Programs lists can’t be uploaded unless the budget impasse is resolved this week. Certifications as to the compliance of TV stations with the commercial limits in children’s television programs would also be added to the public file by January 10 – if it is available for use by then. While these and other dates mentioned below may be put on hold, there are deadlines that broadcasters need to pay attention to that are unaffected by the Washington budget debate.

We note that the FCC’s CDBS and LMS databases are up and operating, though most filings will be considered to be submitted the day that the FCC reopens. As the databases are up and operating, many applications can be electronically filed – so TV stations might as well timely upload their Children’s Television Reports on schedule by January 10, to avoid any slow uploading that may result from overloading of the FCC’s system as the FCC reopens. Other FCC deadlines are unaffected by the shutdown – most notably, as we wrote on Friday, those that related to the repacking of the TV band following the TV incentive auction. The FCC has money to keep its auction activities operating so staff are working to keep the repacking on track. Deadlines coming up for the repacking include a January 10th deadline for stations affected by the repacking to file their Form 387 Transition Progress Report. Auction deadlines proceed whether or not the FCC is otherwise open for business.
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Last week, the Copyright Royalty Board announced its calculations for whether there would be a cost of living increase in the 2019 rates that Internet radio stations pay to SoundExchange for the public performance of sound recordings. In its initial release on the subject, the CRB’s announcement indicated that commercial webcasters would continue to pay at the rate of $.0018 per performance (set after a cost of living increase last year – see our post here). But that same notice indicated that the per performance rate would be $.0019 for noncommercial webcasters with substantial listening (i.e., those that stream more than the 159,140 aggregate monthly tuning hours that noncommercial webcasters receive for a $500 yearly payment), causing some concern among noncommercial webcasters as their per performance rates were supposed to be based on what commercial webcasters paid. That notice was revealed to be a typo according to a Federal Register correction published today – keeping the noncommercial rates at $.0018 once the noncommercial webcaster exceeds the initial complement of streaming hours it gets for the $500 yearly minimum payment (see our initial article on that decision here, and one that provided more details here).

While the rates stay the same for 2019, and will stay substantially the same for 2020 (subject only to a cost of living increase, if any), 2019 will begin the CRB proceeding for the setting of webcaster’s SoundExchange royalty rates for 2021-2026. The CRB sets rates in 5 year increments. But the proceedings to set those rates normally take two years to complete, so the proceeding to set the rates to be effective in 2021 will begin with interested parties filing petitions to participate in the proceeding following a CRB invitation to file, likely to be released at the beginning of 2019. Once parties have filed to participate, the CRB will announce a mandatory 90 day period in which the parties are to try to settle the case. If there is no settlement, the litigation will run through the remainder of 2019 and 2020, with a decision to be issued by the end of 2020.
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A year ago, when the Copyright Royalty Board adopted the rates for webcasters (including broadcasters who simulcast their programming by online streaming) to pay for the sound recording performance royalty (see our summary here and here), one difference from previous decisions is that there was a single per-song, per-listener royalty adopted. In the past

The Copyright Royalty Board Decision on the royalty rates to be paid for the public performance of sound recordings by Internet radio companies – webcasting royalties – was published in the Federal Register today. We wrote about that decision setting the royalties here and here. The publication in the Federal Register gives parties to the proceeding 30 days in which to file an appeal of the decision. Appeals are heard by the US Court of Appeals in Washington DC.

While we have written about some issues with the decision raised by small webcasters about there not being a percentage of revenue royalty, as that issue was not raised before the CRB as no small webcasters participated, that is not an issue that the Court will consider – as the Court looks to whether the decision was arbitrary and capricious based on the evidence adduced at trial, or whether the decision was without substantial evidence in the record. It is focused on what was argued at trial, rather than what was not. Similarly, the issues about the performance complement waivers for broadcasters, which we also wrote about in the same article, are statutory issues that need to be addressed by waivers from copyright holders, not by a court appeal. Noncommercial groups have also expressed disappointment in the decision.
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March appears to be another busy month on the FCC’s regulatory calendar.  While March is one of those months where there is not the usual assortment of EEO public file reports, quarterly issues programs lists or children’s television reports and noncommercial ownership report obligations (see our Broadcasters’ Regulatory Calendar here for some of these dates), it is a month with many other significant regulatory dates.  For instance, this month brings the scheduled start of the TV incentive auction as stations make binding commitments as top whether they will accept the FCC’s opening bids in the reverse auction.  It also brings deadlines for comments in a number of other proceedings that may affect broadcasters, including the FCC’s proceeding on AM radio revitalization and the Copyright Office’s look at the safe harbor for user-generated content.  In addition to comment periods, the lowest unit rate periods that apply during the 45 days before a Presidential primary are in effect in many states, plus March brings other deadlines including those for the first filing date for monthly SoundExchange Reports of Use under the new Internet radio royalty rates.  All make for a month where broadcasters need to watch regulatory developments very closely.

So let’s start with the incentive auction.  As we wrote just a few days ago, March 29 is the deadline for TV broadcasters to make a binding commitment to accept the FCC’s initial offer to buy their spectrum.  TV broadcasters who filed applications to participate in the Incentive Auction back in January were merely leaving the door open to their participation.  The March 29 deadline is the real legally binding commitment to surrender their spectrum at the price that the FCC has offered for their stations.  To make sure that broadcasters understand what they are doing, and how to make their commitments, as we wrote in our article, the FCC has set up an online tutorial on the system and will be holding a workshop about the process.  So if you have a TV station interested in taking advantage of the FCC’s offer to buy out your frequency, this is the month that the commitment needs to be made.
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The text of the Copyright Royalty Board decision on Internet Radio Royalties for 2026-2020 was released last Friday. While it is 203 pages long, the basis for the decision is relatively simple. As required by the Copyright Act, the Copyright Royalty Judges looked at all of the evidence presented to determine what rate a willing buyer and a willing seller would agree to in a marketplace transaction. In looking at that evidence, they decided that the best evidence for that rate was two deals actually done in the marketplace – one deal between Pandora and the independent record label organization Merlin and another between iHeartRadio and Warner Music. As these were deals for the very rates to be decided by the Judges – the rates for the public performance of sound recordings by noninteractive streaming companies – the Judges determined that these two deals best evidenced the value put on streaming royalties by actual players in the marketplace. Looking at the per song per listener rates specified in those deals, and making a few adjustments based on other consideration included in the deals (particularly in the iHeart deal), the Judges arrived at a per song per listener rate for each deal, and determined that they set the bounds of the reasonable rates for nonsubscription webcasting. Taking into account that approximately 2/3 of the music played by webcasters is from major labels like Warner as opposed to that from the independent labels such as those that were part of the Merlin group, the Judges gave the rates from the iHeart deal greater weight in determining where within the zone of reasonableness the rates should fall. Thus, the Board determined that the rate for nonsubscription, noninteractive services should be $.0017 per performance (i.e. per song per listener). This is the rate that they published back in December (about which we wrote here).

While the basis for the decision seems relatively simple, the process to get to that decision was not – and it took 203 pages for the Judges to discuss all of the issues that they weighed in coming to their conclusions. While some of those pages were dedicated to discussions of the rates for noncommercial webcasters and the terms of the payments to be made by webcasters (topics we will try to cover in a later post), the bulk of the decision was a discussion of how the Judges weighed the arguments of the parties in the case in reaching their conclusion. While no summary can cover all of the issues that went into this consideration, some of the issues covered in this decision are discussed below.
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