How did retransmission royalties originate?

Since 1978, cable system operators and since 1991, 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
  • Authorizing the Licensing Section of the Copyright Office to determine the amount of the royalty payments
  • Allowing the claimants and their representatives the opportunity to divide copyright royalties collected among themselves or by resolving disputes through the Copyright Royalty Board.

Similar royalties are available in Australia, Canada, Europe, and Japan.