Statutory Copyright Licenses: Stakeholders' Views on a Phaseout of Licenses for Broadcast Programming


Coverage Type: research
Location:
Government Accountability Office (GAO), 441 G St., NW, Washington, DC, 20548, United States

Most US households rely on cable or satellite operators to watch television broadcast programming. These operators are able to provide their subscribers with broadcast programming—including local news—by retransmitting local broadcast television stations' over-the-air signals. Three statutory licenses permit operators to offer copyrighted broadcast programming in return for paying a government-set royalty fee. For 2014, these fees totaled about $320 million.

Congress created statutory licenses as a cost-effective way for operators to air broadcast programming without obtaining permission to do so from those that own the copyrights for this programming. However, changes in the video marketplace have led some industry stakeholders to question the need for the licenses. The Satellite Television Extension and Localism Reauthorization (STELAR) Act of 2014 included a provision for GAO to review possible effects of phasing out the statutory licenses. This report addresses (1) what is known about the feasibility of phasing out the statutory licenses and (2) views of selected stakeholders on the implications of such a phaseout. GAO analyzed Federal Communications Commission's cable price data from 2010 to 2014 and the US Copyright Office's royalty data from 2014, the most recently available; reviewed relevant laws and reports; and interviewed 42 industry stakeholders, selected for their role in the video marketplace and expertise on the issue.

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