Archive for the ‘FCC’ Category

Plan Your April Fools’ Day On-Air Pranks with the FCC in Mind

With April Fools’ Day only a few days away, we need to play our role as attorneys and discount site viagra ruin the fun by repeating our annual reminder that broadcasters need to be careful with any on-air pranks, jokes or other bits prepared especially for the day.  While a little fun is OK, remember that the FCC does have a rule against on-air hoaxes. While issues under this rule can arise at any time, broadcaster’s temptation to go over the line is probably highest on April 1.  The FCC’s rule against broadcast hoaxes, Section 73.1217 , prevents stations from running any information about a “crime or catastrophe” on the air, if the broadcaster (1) knows the information to be false, (2) it is reasonably foreseeable that the broadcast of the material will cause substantial public harm and (3) public harm is in fact caused.  Public harm is defined as “direct and actual damage to property or to the health or safety of the general public, or diversion of law enforcement or other public health and safety authorities from their duties.”  Air a program that fits within this definition and causes a public harm, and expect to be fined by the FCC. This rule was adopted in the early 1990s after several incidents that were well-publicized in the broadcast industry, including one case where the on-air personalities at a station falsely claimed that they had been taken hostage, and another case where a station broadcast bulletins reporting that a local trash dump had exploded like a volcano and was spewing burning trash.  In both cases, first responders were notified about the non-existent emergencies, actually responded to the notices that listeners called in, and were prevented from responding to real emergencies.  In light of this sort of incident, the FCC adopted its prohibition against broadcast hoaxes.  But, as we’ve reminded broadcasters before, the FCC hoax rule is not the only reason to be wary on April 1.  Beyond potential FCC liability, any station activity that could present the risk of bodily harm to a participant also raises the potential for civil liability.  In cases where people are injured because first responders had been responding to the hoaxes instead of to real emergencies, stations could have faced potential liability.   If some April Fools’ stunt by a station goes wrong, and someone is injured either because police, fire or paramedics are tied up responding to a false alarm, or if someone is hurt rushing to or from the scene of the non-existent calamity that was reported on a radio station, the victim will be looking for a deep pocket to sue – and broadcasters may become the target.  Even a case that doesn’t result in liability can be expensive to defend and subject the station to unwanted negative publicity.  So, have fun, but be careful how you do it

Bill Proposes to Make the Register of Copyrights a Presidential Appointee

The Copyright Office is now a part of the Library of Congress, with the Register of Copyrights (the head of the Copyright Office) appointed by the Librarian of Congress. As part of its plans to review the Copyright Act, the House Judiciary Committee asked for comments earlier this year about structural reform of the Copyright Office, including whether the Register of Copyrights should be appointed by the President rather than by the Librarian of Congress (see our article here ). In a very straightforward and cheap generic viagra direct bill , the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and the Ranking Democratic Member of the Committee have started the process of reform of the Copyright Office by proposing to make the Register a Presidential appointment.

April Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Quarterly Issues Programs Lists and Children’s Television Reports, Incentive Auction Closing Notice, AM…

April has many important dates for broadcasters – both radio and TV.  This includes both regular regulatory obligations and dates unique to this April for both radio and TV – including the release of the FCC’s Closing Notice for the TV incentive auction and the effective date for the new rules liberalizing the location of FM translators used to rebroadcast AM stations. The regular dates include the requirement for commercial and noncommercial full-power and canada viagra Class A Television Stations and AM and FM Radio Stations in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas that they, by April 1, add to their public file (and upload to their websites for stations that have not yet converted to the FCC’s online public file) their Annual EEO Public File Report if the station is part of an Employment Unit with 5 or more full-time employees.  For Radio Stations in Texas which are part of an employment unit with 11 or more full-time employees; and for Television Employment Units with five or more full-time employees in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee , by April 3 (as April 1 is on the weekend), these stations must file with the FCC their EEO Mid-Term Reports (see our summary of this requirement here ).  The Mid-Term Report includes the last two EEO public file reports for these stations and other information about the station’s EEO program.  This is also the end of a calendar quarter, so all stations, commercial and noncommercial, must place into their public files by April 10 their Quarterly Issues Programs Lists .   These lists set out the issues facing their communities and the programs that the station broadcast in the last quarter to address these issues.  As these lists are the only FCC-required records of how stations serve their local communities through their programming efforts, the FCC has taken these obligations very seriously, and imposed big fines for stations that don’t meet their obligations in a timely fashion.

FCC Adopts New Rules for Post-Incentive Auction Channel Sharing – Including Opportunities for LPTV and TV Translators to Increase Over-the-Air…

At its meeting yesterday, the FCC adopted new rules for post-auction channel sharing by broadcast television stations (see the public notice here ). Channel sharing was a concept adopted by the FCC in connection with the broadcast incentive auction, to allow two or more stations to share a single 6 MHz TV channel, while retaining separate licenses.

Court of Appeals Rules that Over-the-Top Video Service is Not a Cable System Entitled to Statutory License to Retransmit TV Station Programming

In a decision released this week , the 9 th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a District Court decision (about which we wrote here ) that had found that a video service provided by Aereokiller was a “cable system” as defined by Section 111 of the Copyright Act. That decision had held that, as a cable system, Aereokiller was entitled to retransmit the programming broadcast by a television station under a statutory license, without specific permission from the copyright holders in that programming. The Court of Appeals, while finding that the wording of Section 111 was ambiguous, determined that the consistent position taken by the Copyright Office, finding that cable systems as defined by Section 111 had to be local services retransmitting TV programming, with some fixed facilities to a defined set of communities was determinative of the issue

Triton Digital Expands Webcast Metrics to Latin America

The monthly Ranker for Latin America is a listing of the digital audio stations and networks of its top 25 clients in Latin America, measured by its audience measurement platform

New Wrinkle in Pre-1972 Sound Recording Cases – Georgia Supreme Court Holds that iHeart Streaming Does Not Violate State Criminal Statute

The Georgia Supreme Court this week issued a decision holding that the streaming of pre-1972 sound recordings by iHeart Media does not violate the state’s criminal statutes against the “transfer” of recorded sounds without the permission of the owner of the master recording. While many trade press articles have lumped this decision in with the ongoing litigation about the public performance right in pre-1972 sound recordings, this case is actually dealing with a different issue – and does not even mention the words “public performance” that were the center of debate in the Flo & Eddie cases against Sirius XM and Pandora, leading to the decisions that we wrote about in New York ( here and here ), California ( here ), and Florida ( here ). What is at issue in the Georgia case is a criminal statute similar to those found in many states that prohibits the unauthorized transfer of various recordings, including pre-1972 sound recordings, without permission of the owner of the master recording

Expanding FM Translator Contours for AM Stations

Relief is found by loosening the belt a notch or two

Radio Ownership Subcaps on the Table for FCC Review

We’ve written (see, e.g. our articles here , here and here ) about the pending petitions asking the FCC to reconsider decisions reached last year to end the UHF discount, to leave the TV local ownership rules in place and to make attributable new TV Joint Sales Agreements, and to not adopt any change in the FCC radio ownership rules in “embedded markets.” Recently, that list of items on the table before the FCC has expanded, with a number of radio groups making a concerted push to change the FCC rules on ownership “subcaps” – limiting the number of AM or FM stations that can be owned in a single market .

Relaxed Rules for Location of FM Translators to Rebroadcast AM Stations Effective April 10

We wrote here and here about the FCC’s new rules to relax the limits on where licensees of AM stations can use FM translators to rebroadcast their stations. The new rules allow the location of these translators so that their 1 mv/m coverage area does not extend beyond 25 miles from the AM station or beyond the AM station’s 2 mv/m contour – whichever is greater .

More on Flo & Eddie: Federal Court Certifies to California State Court Question of Whether There is a Public Performance Right in Pre-1972 Sound…

The music battle continues over the question of whether state laws provide a public performance right in pre-1972 sound recordings . While, as we wrote here and here , the highest court in New York has determined that there is no such right in that state ending the litigation there, cases continue in other states, notably California (where a Federal Court determined that there was a state right, see our summary here ) and Florida (where the Federal Court determined that there was not, see our summary here ). The Florida case has been referred to that state’s highest court for an advisory ruling on the state of the state’s law on the issue, and earlier this week, the same thing happened in California. The US Court of Appeals for the 9 th Circuit, which was hearing an appeal of the Federal District Court decision that there was a performance right under California law, decided to turn to the experts in California state law – the California Supreme Court – and ask for an interpretation of California law to determine if there is indeed a public performance right in these pre-1972 recordings. Flo & Eddie , the performers behind the 1960s band the Turtles, stirred up a major music rights controversy several years ago by their high-profile lawsuits against music services including Sirius XM and Pandora as to whether there is a state law public performance right in pre-1972 sound recordings (see our article here on the first of these suits).

It’s March Madness! … It’s April Madness! … Be Wary of Using the NCAA’s Trademarks

Less than a week ago, the National Collegiate Athletic Association filed a trademark infringement action in federal court against a company that runs an online sports-themed promotions and contests under the marks “April Madness” and “Final 3.”  The NCAA is seeking injunctive relief, damages, the defendant’s profits, punitive damages and an award of attorneys’ fees. Last year, I wrote about the risks of publishing ads or engaging in promotional activities that “play off” the NCAA Collegiate Basketball Playoffs.  Clearly, such activities continue to carry great risks.  Accordingly, I am republishing last year’s blog post on this subject: It’s March Madness!  Know the NCAA’s Rulebook or Risk A Foul Call Against the Unauthorized Use of Its Trademarks With the NCAA Basketball Tournament about to begin, broadcasters, publishers and other businesses need to be wary about potential claims arising from their use terms and logos associated with the tournament, including March Madness , ® The Big Dance , ® Final Four ® or Elite Eight , ® each of which is a federally registered trademark. The NCAA Aggressively Polices the Use of its Trademarks It has been estimated that, last year, the NCAA earned $900 million in revenue associated with the NCAA Basketball tournament.  Moreover, its returns from the tournament have historically grown each year.  Most of this income comes from broadcast licensing fees.  It also has a substantial amount of revenue from licensing March Madness ® and its other marks for use by advertisers.  As part of those licenses, the NCAA agrees to stop non-authorized parties from using any of the marks.  Indeed, if the NCAA did not actively police the use of its marks by unauthorized companies, advertisers might not feel the need to get a license or, at least, to pay as much as they do for the license.  Thus, the NCAA has a strong incentive to put on a full court press to prevent non-licensees from associating their goods and services with the NCAA tournament through unauthorized use of its trademarks.

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