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Archived updates for Thursday, February 09, 2006

USCO Issues Report on Satellite Retransmission Licensing

The U.S. Copyright Office has announced the completion of its report examining certain provisions of the section 119 statutory license scheme that allows satellite carriers to retransmit over-the-air broadcast signals. The text of the full report, including the executive summary and appendices, may be downloaded here.

The report was in response to Section 110 of the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act of 2004 which required the Register of Copyrights to report her findings and recommendations on
  1. the extent to which the unserved household limitation for network stations contained in section 119 of title Copyright Act has operated efficiently and effectively, and
  2. the extent to which secondary transmissions of network stations and superstations under section 119 harm copyright owners of broadcast programming, and the reduction in harm provided by the section 122 statutory license for retransmission of local network stations into their local TV markets.

The purpose of the section 119 and section 122 statutory licenses is to provide satellite carriers who retransmit over-the-air television broadcast stations to their subscribers an efficient way of licensing the copyrights to all the programming and copyrighted works contained on those broadcast signals. Section 119 is a temporary license (currently due to expire at the end of 2009) that enables satellite carriers to retransmit signals of television stations that are located outside of the television markets of the subscribers who are receiving them. Section 122 is a permanent license with no royalty paymentenables satellite carriers to retransmit local television stations to subscribers.

A satellite carrier may only make use of the section 119 license to retransmit network stations to subscribers who reside in “unserved households.” An “unserved household,” is one that cannot receive an over-the-air signal of Grade B intensity from the local network station affiliated with the same network using a conventional rooftop antenna. If a subscriber can receive the local network signal, the satellite carrier may not provide the subscriber with a distant signal of the same network. Nor can the satellite carrier use the section 119 license to provide commercial establishments with network stations. Only private home viewing of network stations is permitted.

Congress created the unserved household provision as a way to protect the historic network-affiliate relationship and the program exclusivity enjoyed by local broadcasters. The unserved household provision enables broadcasters to maintain market exclusivity and also promotes localism by providing access to local voices, weather, news and advertising.

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