MIchelle Clancy ©RapidTVNews | 31-08-2011

Dealing with content rights and copyright payments is about to get much more complex for pay-TV operators, if the US Copyright Office has its way.

The bare bolts of the situation is that USCO is advocating that pay-TV operators distribute fees for content rights directly to studios, sports leagues and big media, instead of relying on the centralised Copyright Tribunal to distribute fees to individual stakeholders.

Under the 1976 Copyright Act, multichannel operators pay copyright license fees to the Copyright Tribunal as part of a compulsory licensing system. That’s simply an “artefact of a bygone era,” USOC said. Instead, IPTV, satellite and cable should eliminate the middleman and set their own individual copyright terms and fee distribution methods - a drag on operational efficiency the industry says it does not need. It also could significantly lengthen negotiations for content.

The American Cable Association (ACA) and the National Cable Telecommunications Association (NCTA) have both issued statements against the USOC’s recommendation.

“The compulsory license has served as Congress intended, benefitting consumers, broadcasters, distributors and the vast majority of rights holders through efficient clearance of copyright on broadcast signals,” ACA Vice President of Government Affairs Ross Lieberman said.