CRB logoCopyright Royalty Judges Reinstate Reporting Relief for Most Noncommercial Broadcasters

You may recall that in August 2016, we reported that the Copyright Royalty Judges had proposed to modify the rules governing how noncommercial broadcasters are supposed to report the sound recordings that they stream to SoundExchange. That proposal was published at the urging of the National Association of Broadcasters (“NAB”) and the National Religious Broadcasters Noncommercial Music License Committee (“NRBNMLC”), who had pointed out that a recent change to the reporting rules had introduced an apparently unintended anomaly. Under the amended rules, noncommercial broadcasters paying no more than the minimum $500 annual fee in royalties appeared to be subject to more burdensome reporting rules than those that applied to commercial broadcasters paying no more than that amount. (We won’t rehash the reporting requirements or the history of how this anomaly was introduced into the requirements but will instead refer inquiring minds to our prior discussion here.)

In what will come as music to the ears of those noncommercial broadcasters, the Judges have now made the proposed change official. Both types of broadcasters – so long as they owe no more in royalties than the $500 annual minimum fee – are excused from two reporting requirements that generally apply to other types of webcasters:

(1)       reporting all of the sound recordings that they stream; and

(2)       reporting the number of persons listening to each sound recording.

Instead, these broadcasters – commercial and noncommercial alike – may report sound recordings for two weeks per calendar quarter and the number of overall aggregate tuning hours in a particular reporting period, without having to link audience levels with specific sound recordings.

Our prediction that there would not be “any fierce or widespread opposition to the Judges’ proposed amendment” proved accurate. The Judges received only three sets of comments in response to their notice published in the Federal Register proposing to amend the reporting rules to correct the reporting anomaly. Joint comments filed by NAB and the NRBNMLC supported their proposed change. Comments filed by the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System did not object to the change.  And the Judges chose to ignore a third comment filed by an individual named Adam Stein, finding that he had “offered no support for his allegations, which appeared to be based upon a fundamental misunderstanding of compulsory licenses.” Notably, SoundExchange – the chief proponent of more comprehensive reporting requirements – did not weigh in at all on the Judges’ proposal.

As we noted previously, it’s hard to argue that noncommercial broadcasters should be treated more harshly under the reporting rules than commercial broadcasters. We are glad to see that the Judges have amended their rules in a way that more accurately reflects this commonsense principle.

**Side note: We continue to watch for developments in another rulemaking proceeding proposing to overhaul the reporting rules much more comprehensively, which remains open.

[Blogmeister’s Note: Our blogger, Karyn Ablin, proposed the now-adopted change to the Judges on behalf of NAB and the National Religious Broadcasters Noncommercial Music License Committee.]