The Copyright Office of the Library of Congress wants some answers–on how it should handle copyright for cable carriage of digital broadcast signals.
The U.S. Copyright Office has opened a broad inquiry on the copyright liability of cable operators that carry digital broadcast signals.
The inquiry was prompted by a petition from the Motion Picture Association of America and other representatives of programming copyright holders.
In their petition, they said they were concerned that cable operators are “not reporting and calculating theirÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦royalties properly.”
Comments in the proceeding a due Nov. 6; replies Dec. 4.
Since the 1970s, federal law has allowed cable operators to carry local broadcast signals for free, but they have to pay royalties based on a federally-mandated formula for broadcast signals they import from other markets. The Copyright Office administers the law.
The copyright holders raised a number of issues in their petition.
They suggested that cable operators should be paying royalties for fees they collect from subscribers for converters boxes and second-set hookups used to receive broadcast HDTV signals.
They also urged the Copyright Office to look into the fees that some cable operators are charging for tiers that must be purchased as a condition of buying other tiers containing digital broadcast signals.
The copyright holders also suggested stricter reporting requirements. In particular, they said cable operators should be required to list all digital channels that they carry. “Such reporting is even more important in the context of distant signal carriage because such carriage would generate an additional royalty obligation.”
The Copyright Office’s inquiry goes beyond the petition, asking more fundamental questions about the cable copyright regime in the digital age. Among them:
1) In the case where the digital signal has or has had an analog counterpart, would the digital broadcast station’s television market for Section 111 purposes be the same as the broadcast station’s television market for the analog signal? If the analog signal is considered distant, can the digital counterpart ever be considered local, or vice versa?
2) How should the Copyright Office determine whether a distant digital broadcast signal is permitted or nonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬”permitted for Distant Signal Equivalent (ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“DSE”) purposes?
3) How does the Copyright Office determine the basis of carriage for a distant digital signal (i.e. market quotas, grandfathered status, etc.)?
4) What DSE values (for network, educational, independent) should be assigned to digital signals?
5) How would the Copyright Office determine the coverage area of a broadcast licensee’s digital television transmission for cable copyright purposes, especially in the context of significantly viewed signals?
6) Would the resolution of these questions be the same in the case where the signal never had an analog counterpart?