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Reports of Use for Webcasters

The terms “Reports of Use” and “Recordkeeping” are used freely among those intimately familiar with the rules concerning webcasting. In loose terms, recordkeeping refers to the data that a station needs to obtain/maintain/ and retain concerning the songs it plays in order to submit a report of use. Another facet to this topic is the format and method of delivery of the reports of use. The regulations specify that the data must be maintained for three years.

General.

Federal law requires webcasters to submit a report of use. In other words, webcasters need to submit data concerning songs they webcast in order to distribute the royalties collected. The amount of data, the means of submission and the format of reports was left to the Copyright Office to determine. It has taken years to reach a final outcome. This post is intended to delineate the requirements for stations. Following that will be a summary of the process that led to the conclusion.

There are two links that offer some concrete information concerning the required data, the format of the reports and delivery methods. The first link, Reports of Use Summary, provides a list of the required elements, the delivery format and methods of delivery along with other important details. Alternatively, you can read the CRB ruling or the SoundExchange “guide”.

The second link provides an informative example concerning the format of reports, using the SoundExchange Excel template. The regulations require SoundExchange to post a Corel version of the Excel document, but that is not currently provided by SoundExchange.

Submission of Reports.

There is a rich history concerning the reports of use. I will forgo most of the history here. The primary question that is of interest to college stations is when the reports are due and what period needs to covered.

Due to the rich history, there are some quirks here. Educational Stations that opted into the SWSA settlement were not required to submit reports of use or retain data while that settlement was in effect, instead they paid a fee. Due to the quirky way things worked, that settlement expired 12/31/2005. As of that date, stations became responsible for maintaining data for the reports of use even though most were not aware of the requirement AND SoundExchange continued to collect a data fee.  Further there was not a recognized means of submitting those reports until the CRB issued a decision on the format and delivery of the reports on October 6, 2006. The report and two subsequent events offered some interesting thoughts on what that means to Educational Stations.

First, the decision did not include a due date for reports of use. So even though the issues of the required elements, the format and means of delivery (among others) had finally been resolved, the regulations failed to include a due date for the reports of use. Second, SoundExchange sent a letter to many Educational Stations informing them of their requirement to submit reports of use. That letter specified that the requirement was retroactive to 2004. While there is an extremely small group of Educational Stations (less than 10) that this applies to, the letter was sent to stations where this did requirement did not apply. Third, SoundExchange General Counsel appeared at a CBI conference panel and essentially said, get us what back data you have, but be more concerned with compliance from this point forward. Interestingly, that person is no longer an employee of SoundExchange.

The bottom line here is that you are required to do the recordkeeping and submit reports of use, but there is currently no deadline for the submission of those reports. On the other hand, it would be dangerous to take the lack of a current deadline to mean that you don’t need to be prepared to submit the reports when a deadline is announced.  It is also important to note that there are efforts to reverse the need to submit reports of use, but you should weigh carefully your options as the outcome is unpredictable.

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March 10, 2007 - Posted by | Recordkeeping, Reports of Use

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