NCTA Warns Copyright Office on Distant Signals

National Cable & Telecommunications Association urges Copyright Office not to change copyright-royalty-payment system.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association put the Copyright Office on notice that it could have "a deleterious effect on the continuity of broadcast-signal carriage post-transition" if the office changes the way it determines what qualifies as a distant TV-station signal.

Translation: If an in-market station a cable operator has carried free-of-charge is reclassified after the digital-TV transition as a distant signal for which cable operators have to pay for the privilege of carrying, those operators will be less inclined to carry them.

The Copyright Office in June proposed a number of changes to the copyright-royalty-payment system in the digital age, including determining which stations are local and which are distant. The latter require operators to pay the royalty payments.

The Copyright Office is also proposing requiring operators to pay a royalty for each multicast channel that has different programming from the primary digital channel, but the NCTA said that, too, is a bad idea. The trade group advised waiting for "guidance" from Congress rather than "unilaterally imposing multiple [distant-signal] charges for the video programming offered by a single television ‘station.’"

The NCTA also said it will unduly increase the reporting requirements, which it characterized as "burdensome and irrelevant information requests" proposed by copyright owners.