Copyright Office Amends Regulations on Cable Royalty Fee Refunds

On January 11, 2013, the Copyright Office amended its regulations on cable royalty refunds to satisfy the provisions of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act of 2010 (“STELA”). Section 111 of the Copyright Act requires cable operators to pay royalties to and file statements of account (“SOA”) with the Copyright Office every six months. STELA, which took effect on January 1, 2010, modified the procedure for calculating a cable operator’s royalty fees under Section 111. STELA permits a cable operator to calculate its royalty fees for the retransmission of distant broadcast signals on a community-by-community basis for each semi-annual accounting period. Prior to STELA’s enactment, a cable operator calculated its royalty fees based on the cable system as a whole.

The Copyright Office’s new amended regulation permits refunds for royalty fee overpayment on a SOA filed prior to STELA’s enactment if a cable operator satisfied all outstanding royalty obligations, including the obligation to pay for the carriage of each distant signal on a system-wide basis. The Copyright Office will calculate refund amounts based on the cable system as a whole rather than STELA’s community-by-community methodology. Cable operators are not entitled to refunds for calculating royalty fees based on the community-by-community methodology prior to STELA’s enactment.

The effective date for the new regulation is February 8, 2013.

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