U.S. Copyright Office restates support of royalties for broadcasters, to "reconcile differences" with Net-only webcasters

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Issue Date: 
Oct 26 2011 - 11:35am

From Issue:

In a summary of its priorities for the next two years, the U.S. Copyright Office restated its support forLibrary of Congress sound recording royalties for over-the-air radio -- using the "parity" argument for a level playing field with Internet-only radio.

"There is an economic disadvantage between the businesses that offer sound recordings over the Internet as compared to those that offer them over the air (the former are required to pay performance royalties while the latter are not)," reads the "Priorities and Special Projects" paper released yesterday. "Finding a way to reconcile these differences has been a long-standing goal of Congress and the Copyright Office, and the Office will continue to provide analysis and support on this important issue."

[Note that while the Copyright Office explicitly supports performance royalties for broadcasters, Congress itself (obviously) does not and has not, to this point. This paper only states "finding a way to reconcile these differences" is a goal of Congress.]

The Copyright Office identifies as one of its "core responsibilities" the role of "providing leadership and impartialU.S. Copyright Office expertise on questions of copyright law and policy," and bi-annually makes public its agenda of regulatory priorities.

Also from the paper (and perhaps of interest to webcasters): Maria Pallante, the Register of Copyrights, testified before the House Judiciary committee in June in support of legislation to increase criminal penalties for what lawmakers call "illegal streaming." A bill introduced in the Senate (S.978, more here) aims to eliminate the disparity between the penalties for unlicensed "reproduction" and "distribution" (e.g. unlicensed peer-to-peer sharing of copyright material) and the penalties for unlicensed online "performance" (that is, streaming). Supporters of the bill say it's aimed at the rogue streaming of television shows, movies, and sports; critics suggest it could criminalize user-generated content that uses copyright recordings (like a YouTube video of a baby dancing to a Prince song) or a webcaster who's fallen behind on his royalty payments.

Finally, the Office announced that it will issue the results of its study (slated for December) on the impact of providing federal copyright coverage for pre-1972 sound recordings (sound recordings made before February 15 of that year are often covered by state laws, not federal).

You can read the Copyright Office's paper here.

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It could criminalize user-generated content that uses copyright recordings.

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Internet radio

It's imperative that a level playing field be establish in regards to performance royalties. The success of Internet radio rest upon the even distribution of royalties between broadcasters and webcasters. A leveled field is only fair and establishes greater revenue distribution for all parties involved. In a time when the US is desperate for new innovations and a rise in entrepreneurship,the government needs to support the proper legislation.

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