SoundExchange reports, payments due soon

On February 2nd the groundhog best known as “Punxsutawney Phil” will be plucked from the comfort of his underground lair and ceremoniously asked to “predict” the end of winter.  Of course, this tradition was memorably portrayed in the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day” in which Bill Murray’s Phil Connors relives a single day of his life until he finally gets things right and becomes the man we all knew he could be. He nearly goes insane but — Spoiler Alert! — ends up winning the heart of Andie McDowell’s Rita Hanson in the end.

I’m sure some webcasters feel like they’re living their own version of that movie as every year the SoundExchange clock resets to zero and the process of compliance begins again, with the first filings and payments due just before Groundhog Day. January 31 to be exact, unless that date falls on a weekend (one thing you can be sure of: it’s going to be cold that day, unless you live in Miami Beach).

January 31 is a weekday this year, meaning there is a deadline one week from today for all webcasters: the requirement to file an Annual Minimum Fee Statement of Account form and pay the annual minimum fee of $500 per channel January 31, 2017. This applies to ALL webcasters (commercial, noncommercial and noncommercial educational). And, as always, the compliance obligations don’t end there.

If that last paragraph looks familiar, it’s because it was taken almost verbatim from last year’s “Webcaster Wake Up Call!” And why not? This year is more “Groundhog Day” than ever, as there are only scant changes from 2016. In fact, for the first time in recent memory, the rates themselves don’t change (that’s because, unlike in the 5 year periods set by past Copyright Royalty Board decisions, the Webcasting IV decision only provides for annual rate adjustment each year based on any changes occurring in the cost of living as determined by the most recent Consumer Price Index – and no such change occurred from 2016 to 2017).

Compliance doesn’t stop on January 31, however. There are other obligations, which differ according to your classification as a “Commercial,” “Noncommercial,” or “Noncommercial Educational” webcaster and according to how many listeners tune in to your webcast transmissions. (If you are affiliated with National Public Radio, check with them for more information.) These obligations may include payment requirements as well as periodic reporting requirements regarding your sound recording “performances” (a “performance is one recording performed to one listener) and the identification of the specific sound recordings you are performing.  If you are unclear or have questions about these obligations, you should consult an attorney for more information.

Hopefully, like Phil Connors, you will get the hang of it more quickly now that you’ve gone through this process a few times. If you’re really feeling comfortable, maybe this is the year that you try to use the “Licensee Direct” filing system (SoundExchange is trying to get more webcasters to use this system). Also note that SoundExchange will be quick to tell you that they can’t answer legal questions about your webcasting obligations. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

And, finally, watch out for Ned Ryerson!