Under the federal Copyright Act, cable systems and satellite operators must pay license royalties to carry distant TV signals on their systems. Ultimately, the Copyright Royalty Board divides the royalties among those copyright owners who claim shares of the royalty fund. Stations that do not file claims by July 31, 2020 will not be able to collect royalties for carriage of their signals during 2019.
In order to file a cable royalty claim, a television station must have aired locally-produced programming of its own and had its signal carried outside of its local service area by at least one cable system in 2019. Television stations with locally-produced programming whose signals were delivered to subscribers located outside the station’s Designated Market Area in 2019 by a satellite provider are also eligible to file royalty claims. A station’s distant signal status should be evaluated and confirmed by communications counsel.
Beginning this year, cable and satellite claim forms can no longer be filed in paper form through mail or courier, and instead must be filed electronically via eCRB, the Copyright Royalty Board’s online filing system. Prior to filing electronically, claimants or their authorized representatives must register for an eCRB account at https://app.crb.gov. First-time electronic filers should register for an account as soon as possible, as there is a multiple day waiting period between initial registration and when a user may submit claims. Also, because accounts can become locked due to inactivity, filers who already have an eCRB account should confirm that their login credentials still work.
To submit claims, stations are required to supply the name and address of the filer and of the copyright owner, and must provide a general statement as to the nature of the copyrighted work (e.g., local news, sports broadcasts, specials, or other station-produced programming). Claims must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. (EDT) on July 31, and claimants should keep copies of all submissions and confirmations of delivery.