Washington -- A federal appeals court has cleared the way
for an increase in copyright fees associated with satellite retransmission of
superstations and distant-network signals to home-dish owners.
Starting Jan. 1, the copyright fee for both signals rose to
27 cents per subscriber, per month. Under the old rate, network signals cost 6 cents and
superstations either 14 cents or 17.5 cents.
The Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association,
the lobbying arm of direct-to-home vendors, is trying to overturn the 27-cent rate, which
was established by a special copyright panel and later affirmed by the Librarian of
The SBCA said the increase was unjustified, arguing that
the cable industry as a whole effectively pays 2.45 cents per subscriber for distant
networks and 9.8 cents for superstations.
The SBCA asked a three-judge panel to block the 27-cent
rate. But on Dec. 22, the court denied the stay, saying that the association failed to
show that it would likely win on appeal or that it would be irreparably injured 'at
this time, absent a stay.' The SBCA's appeal of the 27-cent rate is pending
before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Two bills on Capitol Hill would reverse the 27-cent fee.
Copyright interests, led by the Motion Picture Association
of America, are defending the 27-cent rate. In an Oct. 8 letter to Senate Commerce
Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), MPAA president Jack Valenti said the 27-rate was
reasonable, adding that in some markets -- he cited New Orleans -- the 27-cent satellite
rate was lower than the effective rate paid by cable operators.