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Archived updates for Tuesday, July 19, 2005

USCO Studying Satellite Statutory Licensing

The Copyright Office is soliciting comments from interested parties in connection with a study that will examine select portions of the section 119 (satellite) statutory license and determine what, if any, impact sections 119 and 122 of Title 17 have had on copyright owners whose programming is retransmitted by satellite carriers.

Comments are due by August 22, 2005. Click here for more informtaion.

The satellite carrier statutory license in section 119 of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. ยง 119, permits a satellite carrier to retransmit distant over-the-air television broadcast stations (but not radio stations) to its subscribers for private home viewing. The license provides a means for satellite carriers to clear the rights to over-the-air television broadcast programming (but not radio) upon semi-annual payment of royalty fees to the Copyright Office. The license has a significant restriction, however, with respect to the retransmission of network television stations. Satellite carriers may only retransmit distant network stations to subscribers who reside in "unserved households.''

The unserved household limitation contains a number of involved and complex provisions and is about to be complicated further. All of the existing provisions and definitions were crafted in the era of analog broadcast television. Broadcasters are now switching their transmissions from analog to digital, and it is anticipated that the "digital transition'' will soon be completed. The Grade B signal intensity standard, which has been the centerpiece for defining when an individual household is "unserved" under section 119, does not apply to these digital transmissions.
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