CRB seeks input on last piece of NCE royalty rate puzzle for next five-year period.

A couple of months ago, we reported that the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) had invited comments on a number of proposals to govern copyright royalties owed by noncommercial (NCE) broadcasters to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC from 2013 through 2017. The various proposals covered a substantial portion of the NCE universe, with one important exception. As we noted, the CRB’s notice did not mention proposed rates for NPR or PBS stations.

Now we know why.

It appears that NPR and PBS were still working on their proposed rates. But that work has now been concluded. In joint comments filed in May with the CRB, NPR and PBS have outlined their proposed approach, which would require payment based on the use of the musical work (or piece of art), the type of station performing it, and the manner in which it is performed. And now the CRB wants to know what everybody else thinks of the NPR/PBS proposal.

As in our earlier post, we’ll forego a detailed listing of all fees in favor of a general overview:

The overall structure would be unchanged from the 2008-2012 period. Unlike non-NPR, non-PBS stations – which will pay a blanket fee to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC (with a reduced fee option available to stations that favor news/talk/sports over music) – NPR and PBS stations would pay for the use of each individual piece of music.

The amount in question varies depending on a number of factors. Rates for PBS and its affiliates would be greater than those for NPR and its affiliates. They would also vary depending on whether the broadcast is a network program or the work of an individual affiliated station (with the latter costing less than the former). Context would also come into play: does the musical work in question appear in a “featured presentation”, or is it background or theme music (the former would be more expensive than the latter)?

The across-the-board increase is relatively small.   Regardless of PBS vs. NPR, network vs. individual affiliate station, feature vs. background/theme, the increase in every category tends to be no more than 2% over the corresponding rate from the previous five-year period. 

The CRB has invited comments on the NPR/PBS proposals. Those comments are due by July 26, 2012. Whether or not CRB receives any comments on this part of the puzzle, we expect it to include these PBS/NPR rates along with the proposed rates for other, non-PBS/non-NPR categories of stations that it announced last April.  

Those earlier proposed rates were not, of course, etched in stone and may be modified somewhat based on the few other comments filed in response to CRB’s April notice, although no major changes are expected. The other comments focused on the possible creation of a separate tier for very, very small noncommercial broadcasters.

We will, of course, keep you posted about any developments. Again, if you are a PBS or NPR affiliate, you’ll want to start figuring out how these rates will affect you and perhaps look closely at the actual proposed royalty rates now that we know what they are.