At this year’s NAB Convention, digital issues were much talked about.  In fact, the NAB held, for the first time, a day and a half session focusing on radio stations and their digital efforts, called the Digital Strategies Exchange.  I was on a panel called the Consultant’s Corner, and discussed legal issues that

This afternoon, the FCC released its long-anticipated Report and Order (R&O) setting forth the Commission’s new closed captioning rules for IP-delivered video programming, pursuant to the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). 

As we explained when the rules were first proposed in September, the CVAA directed the FCC to establish how and when certain

The FCC has set the date for comments on the proposal for television stations to maintain an online public inspection file, including an online political file (see Federal Register notice here).  Comments are due on December 22.  Replies are due on January 6.  Happy Holidays from the FCC!  We summarized the FCC’s proposals here and here.  While the proposed new rules will relieve stations from the burden of hosting the files themselves (as the FCC is proposing to host all of the files on its own servers), it still requires that stations upload their information – including all information that is put in their political file, into a new electronic reporting system to be devised by the FCC.  As we described in detail in our summary of the proposal for the online public file, the FCC is asking whether certain new public file obligations should be added to those currently in place.  These include possible posting of comments on programming that come from the station’s social media efforts in addition to the letters and emails currently required; a proposed requirement to place in the public file information about sponsorship identification of all "pay for play" material that is broadcast on a station (currently only broadcast, not kept in any paper form); a requirement to provide information about shared services agreements and the programming that they provide to a station; and a requirement that all information about fines and other enforcement actions taken against a station be posted to the online file.  So how much does the FCC think that this will cost stations?

As we wrote yesterday, in adopting rules, the FCC is currently bound by the Paperwork Reduction and the Regulatory Flexibility Acts, both of which require some assessment of the impact of new regulations, particularly on small businesses.  In the Federal Register publication, the FCC’s assessment of the regulatory burden of these proposed new obligations is broken down into several pieces.  The burden for the new online public file requirement, including the posting of the political file, is set forth as follows:

Respondents/Affected Parties: Business or other for-profit entities; Not for-profit institutions; Individuals or households

Number of Respondents and Responses: 25,422 respondents; 59,833 responses

Estimated Time per Response: 1 to 104 hours.

Frequency of Response: On occasion reporting requirement; Recordkeeping requirement; Third party disclosure requirement

 Obligation To Respond: Required to obtain or retain benefits. The statutory authority for this collection of information is contained in 47 U.S.C 151, 152, 154(i), 303, 307 and 308

Total Annual Burden: 2,158,909 hours

 Total Annual Costs: $801,150.00

Stations should look at and evaluate these numbers as part of their response, as the FCC has invited a cost-benefit analysis of the proposed new rules.  How is it that the FCC assumes that the regulatory burden would be over 2 million hours, but that the costs would be less than a million dollars?  How will this work be done and paid for?  It is also interested in that the number of respondents is listed as 25,422.  As there are only 1,782 full-power television stations and about 450 Class A stations according to the last FCC Report on station totals, who else is expected to report on this form?  The FCC, in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, specifically exempted radio from the obligations for an online public file – at least for the time being.

Continue Reading December 22 Comment Deadline Set for FCC Proposal for Online Public Inspection File for TV – What is the Regulatory Burden?

Do you allow the posting of content created by third parties on your website (e.g. videos, audio files, or even written comments)?  Do you run any on-line service where you collect information provided by third parties (whether that be a dating service, auction site or other classified service)?  If you do, you probably know that you are safe from copyright claims for infringing content that is posted by those who are not your employees or agents if you follow certain steps.  We have written about these steps to give you the "safe harbor" from copyright liability for "user-generated content" before.  The steps include requirements that you not encourage or profit from the infringing content, that you have terms of use for your service that forbid users from posting infringing content, and that you take down infringing content when you receive notice from copyright holders that it has been uploaded to your site or service by a third party.  To take advantage of this safe harbor from liability, services are required to register with the Copyright Office the name of someone in their company who can be served with "take-down notices" from copyright owners.  The process of registration is now proposed to be changed in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking just issued by the Copyright Office.  Comments on this notice can be filed through November 28. Replies are due by December 27.

The safe harbor was created by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, adopted in 1998.  Since that time, the registration of agents to receive take-down notices has been governed by interim rules.  Services register by sending a paper form and a filing fee to the Copyright Office, and that information is manually entered by the Copyright Office into a list that is available on the Copyright Office website.  From experience, the time from the filing of such a registration to its appearance on the Copyright Office’s website can take several weeks or more.  The Copyright Office, in its Notice, states that it has done some informal checks on the information in its database of registered agents, and found that the list contains duplicate registrations, registrations for companies or sites that are no longer in operation (services are supposed to tell the Office when they stop their operations), and many outdated addresses (services are supposed to update their agents as employees change, but apparently they sometimes forget).  The NPRM proposes to move to an electronic registration system, which will automatically request a verification of the registered information on a regular basis.  In making this proposal, the Copyright Office asks for public comment on a number of issues.

Continue Reading Claiming Safe Harbor Protection for User Generated Content – Copyright Office Proposes Changes to Registration of Agent for Service of Take Down Notices

Dave Oxenford this week conducted a seminar on legal issues facing broadcasters in their digital media efforts.  The seminar was organized by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters, and originated before a group of broadcasters in Lansing, but was webcast live to broadcasters in ten other states.  Dave addressed a variety of legal issues for broadcasters in connection with their website operations and other digital media platforms.  These issues included a discussion of service marks and copyrights, employment matters, music on websites, the use of social media, privacy, and sponsorship disclosure.  The slides used in the Lansing presentation are available here.    During the seminar, Dave also mentioned that stations with websites featuring user-generated content, to help insulate themselves from copyright infringement that might occur in the content posted to their website by their audience, should take advantage of the registration with the Copyright Office that may provide safe harbor protection if a station follows the rules and takes down offending content when identified by a copyright holder.  The Copyright Office instructions for registration can be found here.   

One of the most common issues that arise with radio station websites is the streaming of their programming.  In August, Dave gave a presentation to the Texas Association of Broadcasters providing  a step-by-step guide to streaming issues, with a summary of the royalty rates paid by different types of streaming companies.  That summary to Internet Radio issues is available here.  Additional information about use of music on the Internet can be found in Davis Wright Tremaine’s Guide to The Basics of Music Licensing in a Digital Age.   Dave also presented this seminar at the Connecticut Broadcasters Association’s Annual Convention in Hartford on October 14.

Continue Reading David Oxenford Conducts Webinar for State Broadcast Associations on Legal Issues in the Digital Media World – Including a Discussion of Ephemeral Copies of Sound Recordings

Last week, the Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force asked for comments on the relationship between the protection of copyrighted content on the Internet and the effect of such protections on technology innovation and the expectations of consumers.  The purpose of the inquiry is to develop a report to be circulated among the various government departments that have power over the enforcement of copyrights and the development of rules and regulations that deal with copyrighted materials – to essentially develop government policy in this area.  While the request for comments dwell on the concerns about copyright infringement that are raised by many Internet applications, the proceeding will obviously be controversial among media companies.  Many of these companies are concerned about the unauthorized use of their content on various websites, while other media companies (or divisions of the same media companies who are concerned about the unauthorized use of content) are concerned about too tight restrictions on the use of copyrighted content and how that will impact various websites, especially those that feature user-generated content.

As we have written before, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act allows Internet companies to allow users to post material on their websites, without fear of liability, if they take certain precautions – including adopting terms of use warning users that they need to observe the intellectual property rights of others, not otherwise encouraging infringing uses, registering with the Copyright Office to provide a contact person at the website operator that a copyright owner can contact if they believe that their content is being used improperly, and taking steps to take down improper content if the website operator is notified of the infringing use.    This Commerce Department’s notice asks if this "safe harbor" provision has served the public interest, or if adjustments to this regime should be made.  Obviously, many websites that have grown businesses based on user generated content (e.g. many of the social networking and video-sharing sites) and will be very concerned with a proposal to alter their safe harbor and require them to take on a greater burden of reviewing content for potential copyright violations, while many content owners, who have complained about the inability to monitor all of these sites, may be looking for these reforms.   Obviously, there will be conflicting views on these proposals.

Continue Reading Department of Commerce Seeks Comments on The Relationship of Protecting Copyrighted Content and Innovation in the Internet Economy

Broadcasters have a host of other legal issues that they should consider in connection with their digital presence.  At last week’s Maine Association of Broadcasters Annual Convention in Bangor, Dave Oxenford addressed these issues, including service marks and copyrights, employment matters, music on websites, the use of social media, privacy and sponsorship disclosure.  A copy of Dave’s presentation on the Legal Issues

So you want to start streaming your radio station on the Internet?  Or maybe you want to start a whole new Internet radio station.  In a session at last week’s Texas Association of Broadcasters Annual Convention in Austin, Dave Oxenford talked about the legal considerations starting an Internet radio station, while Chris Dusterhoff

Davis Wright Tremaine attorneys David Oxenford and Rob Driscoll conducted a seminar –  Using Music in Digital Media: Business and Legal Issues – on June 16, 2010 in New York City.  The seminar was presented to attorneys from committees of the New York State and New York City bar associations.  In the seminar, Dave and