Last month we wrote about a settlement that established the royalty rates to be paid by so-called “pureplay webcasters” for performance of sound recordings solely via the Internet. This was one more in a series of such settlements designed to provide alternatives to the royalty rates established by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) in March, 2007. Since the “pureplay” settlement seemed to cover the last corner of the webcasting universe left uncovered by the earlier settlements (which related to non-commercial radio stations that are part of the public radio/CPB system, and commercial radio stations), we referred to the “pureplay” settlement as the “final piece” of the webcasting puzzle.
Our bad. Turns out there were more settlements – four separate ones, to be exact – still to be completed.
That’s right. SoundExchange, representing the holders of performance copyrights (held by artists, record labels and others), has announced that it has agreed to terms governing the payment of royalties by four more groups of webcasters. Despite the plethora of earlier settlement agreements, there remained one category of folks not covered by any royalty agreement: noncommercial entities with FCC licenses that are not part of the public radio system.
The good news is that, with the completion of the settlement agreements recently announced by SoundExchange, most of these should now be covered in one of the agreements summarized below.
We won’t have the final details until the full terms of each settlement are published in the Federal Register. (Note: The agreements won’t become effective until 30 days following Federal Register publication.) Still, from the information that SoundExchange has released, we know the following.
Religious and Non-Commercial Webcasters
A large subset of “noncommercial entities with FCC licenses that are not part of the public radio system” consists of religious broadcasters. To those of you in that group we say: your prayers have been answered.
According to the press release issued by SoundExchange, an agreement was reached with the National Religious Broadcasters Music Committee governing royalty rates for the years 2006-2015.
Webcasters choosing to participate will pay a per performance rate that begins slightly lower than those set by the CRB but will increase through the term. Fees will be calculated by multiplying the applicable annual royalty rate times the number of songs played times the number of listeners. “Small stations” – not defined in the press release – may be able to pay a “proxy fee” (as do small commercial broadcasters) to avoid filing records containing information of all songs played.
This agreement establishes rates through 2015. In other words, it supplants not only the rates which the CRB set in March, 2007, but also those that the CRB still has under consideration for upcoming years.
Many, though not all, college broadcasters also fall into the population of “noncommercial entities with FCC licenses that are not part of the public radio system”. To those of you in that group we say: it’s time to graduate to a new royalty scheme.
These folks will pay an annual set fee of $500.00 as long as they do not exceed 159,140 “aggregate tuning hours” in a given month. (If they exceed that ATH level, they will be subject to the royalty scheme set up for commercial per-performance rates in the agreement between SoundExchange and the National Association of Broadcasters earlier this year.)
Sound Exchange’s press release on this agreement indicates that “college stations and other noncommercial educational webcasters” will pay only a minimum annual fee and will have relaxed recordkeeping requirements.
Thought this one was already resolved, did you? Well, we discussed the rates paid by XM-Sirius a few weeks ago, but that was for the performance of the sound recordings via their satellite feed. This one is for performance via their website.
Again, all we have to work from is a barebones press release, but the terms appear to involve payment on a per performance basis through 2015, though the specific rate has not yet been publicly disclosed.
The Mysterious Fourth Agreement???
While SoundExchange reported that a total of four new agreements had been reached, it didn’t release any details about the final agreement. Why the mystery? Who knows? It could be that this last agreement is the coolest of them all. We’ll just have to wait and see.
You can be sure that we’ll pass on the full details of each agreement – including who is eligible for which agreements and what steps those eligible parties must take to participate – when publication in the Federal Register occurs. Once that happens, we’ll also be in a position to update the step-by-step guide to webcasting royalties (which we posted several months ago) to include a breakdown of the latest agreements. Check back here at www.CommLawBlog.com for more information as it comes available.