In a report to Congress last Monday, the U.S. Copyright Office said companies that intend to stream local TV signals over the Internet should be denied a key copyright license that cable operators use to distribute those broadcasts.
“Several businesses are using, or plan to use, the Internet to retransmit broadcast programming. The office recommends that businesses using the Internet to deliver video programming should not be eligible for a statutory license at least this time,” the 275-page report said.
Although the office’s report would deny a copyright licensed for Internet distribution, it would not do the same for Internet protocol networks, such as AT&T’s U-verse video programming platform and Verizon Communications’ FiOS fiber-to-the-home network.
“AT&T and Verizon do not neatly fit within the confines of the current statutory licenses,” the reports said. “Nevertheless, both AT&T and Verizon’s operations can be viewed as cable systems and consequently, they may use [cable’s copyright license] to retransmit broadcast signals, provided they adhere to all of the FCC’s broadcast signal carried rules.”
Congress asked for the report in a 2004 law that renewed a copyright license that allows direct broadcast satellite providers to retransmit Big Four network programming into rural areas.
Cable operators and satellite carriers may rely on so-called compulsory copyright licenses, which eliminate the need to complete thousands of negotiations with copyright owners whose video content is transmitted by TV stations.
Extending those licenses to the Internet could, among other things, abet piracy and harm copyright owners financially, the report said.
“There are serious questions about signal security that need to be addressed,” the report said.
The report also said that the marketplace appears to be working with regard to the distribution of video programming over the Internet, perhaps making expansion of the compulsory license a counterproductive move.
“An Internet statutory license would likely remove incentives for individuals and companies to develop innovative business models,” the report said.