Copyright Holders Seek Clarity On Payments

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Copyright Holders Seek Clarity On Retransmission Payments

Programmers want to make sure cable systems are paying all they should be to copyright owners for retransmitting broadcasters' digital signals

The Copyright Office has asked for comment on what, if any, changes or clarifications need to be made to the reporting process for cable payments to copyright holders for retransmission of broadcast signals.

In 1976, Congress determined that cable should pay for those signals, but that it was unworkable to have everyone negotiate the carriage independently. So a compulsory license fee was established based on gross revenues associated with those transmissions.

Along came digital and now a broadcast can be analog or digital, and a digital broadcast can be a replication of the original signal, or new, multicast programming, or it can be HDTV.

The Motion Picture Association of America, joined by the major sports leagues, have asked the Copyright office to begin a rulemaking to clarify what payments cable operators need to be making on those various new slices of the digital pie.

Citing anecdotal evidence that some operators were not counting certain transmissions or fees--converter box fees, for example--as gross receipts on which they have to make payments, the studios and leagues asked for various changes to accounting and reporting forms.

For one thing, they want cable systems to have to identify the stations they are carrying in both analog and digital so that it "provides notice that a cabl4e operator is carrying digital signals and may be charging subs additional fees that should be included in the gross receipts calculations.

Commenter’s have until Nov. 6 to weigh in, with replies due Dec. 4.

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