Cable price hike

Industry on receiving end of boost in rates by Copyright Office

The U.S. Copyright Office last week formalized an industry agreement
that will increase the amount of royalty fees cable operators pay to carry
distant TV signals on their systems.

That was just one of three developments on the copyright front last
week; the other two deal with a pending decision on audio streaming and an
attempt by some content providers to get more buck for their bang.

To carry distant signals-wgn-tv, for example-without having
to get permission from every program provider, cable operators pay
approximately $130 million a year into a pool collected by the Copyright
Office. That money is then divided among program providers, which include
commercial broadcasters, public broadcasters, all sports leagues except the
National Football League (which airs games only broadcast networks so it does
not have a right to collect distant-signal royalties), syndicators, devotional
(religious) programmers and Canadian programmers.

Last summer, all the parties negotiated a settlement on how cable
operators would pay the royalties. The Copyright Office in September requested
comments on the settlement, but none came in by the Oct. 12 deadline, signaling
that all parties had signed off on the agreement. The Copyright Office turned
the final rulemaking in to the Federal Register at the end of last week, making
it official.

The deal codifies a complex formula that requires cable operators to pay
fees based on a percentage of gross receipts they collect from subscribers who
receive distant TV signals. The deal also raises the limits on what classifies
an operator as small, medium or large. A cable operator's size is determined by
an operator's gross receipts.

The Copyright Office this week also plans to announce its decision on
whether radio broadcasters should pay additional copyright fees to play music
over the Internet.

A federal court in New York also is considering the issue, which the
National Association of Broadcasters and the Recording Industry Association of
America are disputing. NAB says broadcasters should not be charged additional
fees if they broadcast their radio signal over the Internet; RIAA

Finally, the Copyright Office last week began to work out a dispute
between the Motion Picture Association of America and a new group called the
Independent Producers Group, whose members include Abrams Gentile
Entertainment, Beacon Communications, Litton Syndications, Jay Ward Productions
and the United Negro College Fund, among others.

The dispute is over how money from the 1997 cable copyright pool will be