Are TV stations breaking copyright rules?

Many radio stations recently decided to stop simulcasting their programming over the internet because of a ruling by U.S. District Judge Berele Schiller. His ruling would force anyone streaming copyrighted music over the internet subject to the same provisions as broadcasting it over the air. The question then becomes, are TV stations subject to the same provisions?

Last March, the NAB and seven radio station owners filed suit against the U.S. Copyright office claiming that transmitting music over the internet was not covered by current regulations and that stations could not be subject to the same provisions. The Copyright office had previously ruled that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 required radio stations to pay musicians for internet simulcasts.

A point that has been lost on some TV stations is that this ruling applies also to TV stations internet broadcasts. Any TV station using copyrighted music in promos, bumpers, background music for commercials or simulcasts is also subject to the same copyright provisions as described above.

Broadcast Engineering’s right of “FCC Update”, Washington attorney Harry Martin reinforced the ruling saying, “The US Copyright Office's rule and the recent court decision upholding it applies to all broadcast streaming, radio and TV. Radio streaming has been most affected, however, since radio station programming is largely copyrighted music.”

Stations should examine their practices regarding conformance to copyright provisions.