TV broadcasters know that every July 31st, they need to file with the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) to claim a share of the royalty fund for out-of-market carriage of their programming by cable and satellite TV systems. The details can be found in the Pillsbury Advisory we published earlier this month, which also noted that since July 31st is a Sunday this year, the filings may be made until 5pm (EDT) on August 1.
Under the Copyright Act, cable systems and satellite operators must pay license royalties to carry distant TV signals on their systems. The CRB divides the royalties among those copyright owners who claim shares of the royalty fund. Stations that do not file claims by the deadline will not be able to collect royalties for carriage of their signals during 2015.
However, a lot of filers wait until the last minute to file, and cross their fingers that the system won’t crash or become overwhelmed by the rush of last minute filings. The risk of such an approach went up markedly this afternoon, when the CRB released the following notice:
ATTENTION CABLE AND SATELLITE ROYALTY CLAIMS FILERS: ONLINE CLAIMS FILING TO BE TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE TO ACCOMMODATE SCHEDULED MAINTENANCE
The Architect of the Capitol will be conducting scheduled maintenance on the Capitol Hill campus from Friday, July 29, through Sunday, July 31, resulting in power outages that will cause an interruption in the online claims filing service. The CRB website, www.loc.gov/crb, will be unavailable from 5 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time, on July 29 through midnight, Eastern Daylight Time, July 31. The CRB website is scheduled to be available again on August 1. The deadline for filing 2015 cable and satellite claims is August 1 this year because July 31 falls on a nonbusiness day. Filers who planned to file this weekend may want to consider completing a paper claim following the instructions on the fillable PDF form on the CRB website. For more details, go to http://www.loc.gov/crb/claims/ before 5 p.m. on July 29.
In other words, if your don’t have your claim on file by 5pm EDT tomorrow, Friday, July 29th, your only window to file electronically runs from midnight Sunday night until 5pm EDT on Monday—a period of just seventeen hours. Worse, a lot of filers who didn’t learn of this announcement and find themselves unable to file this weekend will also be rushing to get on file on Monday.
Providing a little added drama is the phrase “scheduled to be available again on August 1,” which those of us used to dealing with federal filing systems know is not at all the same as “will be available again on August 1.” Should there be a delay in getting the filing system up and running, that seventeen-hour filing window will shrink further. As a result, TV broadcasters would do well to complete their filings before 5pm EDT tomorrow. Failing that, they should be prepared to take the CRB’s advice and file a paper claim rather than risk missing the August 1 deadline. The deadline is statutory, so it can’t be waived by the CRB.
Some may find copyright law to be a dull subject, but the CRB has certainly found a way to inject some real excitement into an otherwise mundane process. Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines…