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Statutory license of television programming

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Overview Edit

Sections 111, 119, and 122 of the Copyright Act are statutory licenses that have allowed cable operators and satellite carriers to retransmit local and distant broadcast station signals to paying subscribers for decades. By operation of these provisions, television programming is automatically licensed to cable operators and satellite carriers at government determined rates and under government determined terms and conditions, thus eliminating the transaction costs associated with negotiating thousands of licenses with a multitude of copyright owners.

The section 119 statutory license allows DBS operators to provide distant, out-of-market television broadcast signals to subscribers in short markets and to other unserved households; this is referred to as distant-into-local service. For example, using the Section 119 statutory license, a DBS operator can provide its subscribers in Harrisonburg, Virginia, which lacks CBS and NBC affiliates, CBS and NBC stations from another television market, such as Washington, D.C.

In addition to the Section 119 statutory license, a separate license found at Section 122 (of title 17 of the U.S. Code) allows DBS operators to provide local television broadcast signals to subscribers in the same local area; this is referred to as local-into-local service. For example, the Section 122 statutory license allows a DBS operator to provide its subscribers in Washington, D.C., with the broadcast programming from Washington, D.C., stations.

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