What is Intermediary?

Intermediary was formed in 2002 as part of Hammerman PLLC (a full service business and intellectual property law boutique located in Washington, D.C.). Hammerman PLLC serves as copyright holders’ advocate (or “intermediary”) before the United States Copyright Office, the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, copyright and intellectual property offices and collectives worldwide to register works, assert claims, and recover royalties due and payable to rights holders for their re-transmitted television programming, to claim and audit royalties for musical works from performing rights organizations, and to collect fees for musical works transmitted (web cast or streamed) over the Internet. Intermediary was established as a separate part of the company to consolidate multiple, similar contingency-fee based, and other intellectual property matters. In recent years, the Firm has expanded to represent clients with respect to their trademark matters before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and state regulatory agencies.

Who does Intermediary represent?

Intermediary collects re-transmission royalties from cable TV operators, satellite companies, performing rights organizations and other entities on behalf of the following content providers:

  • Artists
  • Commercial Television Producers
  • Composers
  • Educational Television Producers
  • Independent Program Suppliers
  • Infomercial Producers
  • International Movie Production Companies
  • Manufacturers
  • Musicians
  • National Governing Bodies of Sport (e.g., US Figure Skating)
  • Performers
  • Producers of programs aired on public television/PBS
  • Professional Sports Leagues
  • Religious Broadcasters
  • Television Station Ownership Groups

How did the royalties come about?

Since 1978, cable operators and satellite providers in the U.S. are required by statute to pay for the right to retransmit television programming. However, they wanted the license fees for such programming to be set at reasonable levels. They didn’t want individual producers to withhold or restrict access to programs contained in their signals. New copyright laws struck a reasonable balance.

Balance was achieved by:

  • Defining a “distant signal”
  • Requiring the cable operators and satellite companies to pay royalties
  • Giving the Licensing Division of the Copyright Office the power to determine the amount of the royalty payments
  • Giving the claimants and their representatives the ability to divide the royalties collected among themselves or by resolving disputes through the Copyright Royalty Board.

Similar compensation methods are provided in Australia, Canada, Europe, and Japan.

Who pays re-transmission royalties?

According to the Copyright Act, anyone who legally re-transmits a “distant signal” is required to pay royalties to the owners of the programming contained within that transmission. Companies that “re-transmit” such signals are usually cable television operators and direct-to-home satellite television providers. Other media providers, such as webcasters, are subject to similar requirements. Similar laws apply in outside the U.S.

What is a distant signal?

A “distant signal” is a broadcast signal you cannot receive off the air (with a “rabbit ears” antenna) because you’re too far away from where the signal originates. Expressed another way, a local signal can be defined as one that is within a radius of between 40 and 60 miles of a transmitting antenna broadcast depending on its transmitter’s strength.

Distant signals originate as over-the-air signals and then are picked up and retransmitted as part of the retransmitter’s basic programming package (like basic cable). That means that programming that originates on specialty and pay television services (like Discovery, ESPN, and TBN) does not generate retransmission royalties.

How much money is involved?

The U.S. Copyright Office sets the amount of the re-transmission royalties that are paid to all television copyright owners. It’s a considerable sum. In 2020, the royalty rates resulted in over $230 million collected for program owners. Approximately $220 million was collected for cable re-transmissions, and about $10 million was collected for satellite re-transmission. Significantly smaller amounts are collected annually in Australia, Canada and across Europe.

How are all these royalties divided among the various claimants?

The U.S. Copyright Royalty Board allows the claimants to establish their own claimants’ groups, which are formed by claimants with similar programming interests (for example: religious broadcasters, public television, or professional team sports). After the groups negotiate and agree to settle their shares of the annual distribution, representatives for each claimant negotiate their individual portions of that amount.

In simpler terms, royalties are divided like pieces of a pie. First, each group of claimants gets a piece. Then individual claimants in each group receive slivers of their group’s slice. Typical distribution formulas are based on average household television audience ratings for the programs shown on distant signals, and on the number of subscribers who actually receive those distant signals through their cable or satellite company. Each year this method of allocation is reviewed and at times renegotiated.

How does Intermediary collect shares of the royalty distributions?

Each year we file claims around the world for our clients. Then, we negotiate royalty distributions on behalf of our clients. We help to determine each group’s share and help to distribute each claimant’s portion of that share.

How does Intermediary distribute the royalties it collects?

Within days of each distribution, royalty payments are forwarded directly to our clients.

Does Intermediary receive a fee?

Yes. Fees are paid by contingency fee arrangement. We collect a direct percentage of the royalties collected. We only are compensated if and when our clients receive royalty distributions.

How do I affiliate with Intermediary?

If you think you fit into one of the categories of copyright holders that we represent, then contact us. After a thorough review and analysis of your information, and a conflicts check, we will ask you to sign an engagement letter and provide us with a list of programming for which you’re entitled to receive royalties. Once we’ve entered that information into our database, we’ll match your programs with the data we track, file claims on your behalf, and ensure that your share of royalties is collected and paid upon distribution.

Have we helped?

We hope we’ve made the regime of retransmission and additional copyright royalties clearer. We also hope we’ve anticipated most of your questions and convinced you that affiliating with Intermediary as a copyright holder is one of the smartest choices you can make.

If you have more questions, 
please contact us.