The Cable and Satellite Compulsory Copyright Licenses

Tags: Content/IP / Technology Policy

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On April 29, 2011, the Silicon Flatirons Program convened a roundtable at the offices of Wilkinson Barker and Knauer in Washington, D.C., to discuss the cable and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) compulsory copyright licenses. Industry experts with diverse views on the subject attended, including representatives from the large and small cable companies, satellite and Internet programming distributors, commercial and public broadcasters, major networks, content creators, public interest advocates, and former government personnel.

Under the statutory licenses, multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) who comply with various statutory requirements and FCC regulations can retransmit programming on their systems without obtaining permission from the copyright holder. These licenses are controversial topics. Supporters of the compulsory license hold that the special nature of the programmer-broadcaster-MVPD relationship makes them necessary. Opponents of the statutory license see it as an outdated regulatory artifact that adds friction to the media environment and prevents content creators from receiving fair market value for their works. Still others propose that the licenses may be reformed in certain ways—for example, by harmonizing the DBS and cable licenses, extending them to online services that offer services similar to MVPDs, or eliminating the license for distant signals while maintaining it for local ones.

The roundtable discussion did not reach consensus among all participants, although some discussants found that their views were not as dissimilar as initially expected. Additionally, the roundtable provided a forum where various industry participants and observers could directly present their views to an informed audience.


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