Report on Marketplace Alternatives to Replace Statutory Licenses

The U.S. Copyright Act contains three statutory licenses under which a cable system or a satellite carrier may transmit distant and local broadcast television signals without incurring the transaction costs associated with acquiring private licenses to carry the programming on these signals. The cable statutory license, codified in section 111 of the Act, permits a cable operator to retransmit both local and distant radio and television station signals to its subscribers. Similarly, the satellite carrier statutory license, codified in section 119 of the Act, permits a satellite carrier to provide distant broadcast signals to its subscribers. A satellite carrier may also retransmit local television station signals into the stations’ local markets on a royalty-free basis under a third statutory license codified in section 122.

On May 27, 2010, the President signed the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act of 2010 (STELA). Pub. L. No. 111-175, 124 Stat. 1218 (2010). The legislation extended the term of the section 119 license for another five years, updated the statutory license structures to account for changes resulting from the nationwide transition to digital television, and revised the section 111 and 119 licenses in several respects. In addition, Congress instructed the Copyright Office, the Government Accounting Office, and the Federal Communications Commission to conduct a variety of studies on different structural and regulatory aspects of the broadcast signal carriage marketplace in the United States and report findings to Congress.


Specifically, Section 302 of STELA charges the Copyright Office as follows:

  • Not later than 18 months after the enactment of this Act, and after consultation with the Federal Communication Commission, the Register of Copyrights shall submit to the appropriate Congressional committees a report containing the following:
  • 1. proposed mechanisms, methods, and recommendations on how to implement a phase-out of the statutory licensing requirements set forth in sections 111, 119, and 122 of title 17, United States Code, by making such sections inapplicable to the secondary transmission of a performance or display of a work embodied in a primary transmission of a broadcast station that is authorized to license the same secondary transmission directly with respect to all of the performances and displays embodied in such primary transmission
  • 2. any recommendations for alternative means to implement a timely and effective phase-out of the statutory licensing requirements set forth in sections 111, 119, and 122 of title 17, United States Code
  • 3. any recommendations for legislative or administrative actions as may be appropriate to achieve such a phase-out