« Return to Blog Listings
Dec. 16 2012

Royalties, Copyrights and our Playlist

By Diana Ross | Posted in Staff Blogs | Comments Off on Royalties, Copyrights and our Playlist

We’ve heard from many listener/members over the course of the last year about why we still haven’t posted future listings on the website… that other stations do it, why can’t we?

Here’s the scoop: The agreements between the various groups involved are all so complex and uncertain right now that we just can’t/won’t risk heavy-handed fines (which can be back-dated!) if we post listings that are later determined to be in violation of the copyright laws.  These groups are: Sound Exchange (the group that collects royalties for internet streaming), the Copyright Royalty Board (the group that determine rates and terms for copyright statutory licenses), the PROs (the groups that collect royalties for the record labels), and the CPB (which negotiates and pays the licensing/royalties for public stations).

Before the internet, we weren’t allowed to publish the Trifecta of a recording’s information: Artist, Song and Specific Time of airing.  The old WBJC Program Guide got by this by printing “3p-6p, Beethoven’s 5th,  BSO, Telarc” because as long as one of those three things were missing, it was okay.

Now, because we stream our programming over the internet, we must comply with copious amounts of unchallenged and unclear laws (Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995; Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 are the two biggies) that are still being hammered out.

These rules specifically state (see Performance Complement Exceptions about half way down the linked page) that we cannot pre-announce what we are streaming on the internet.  That part seems pretty clear to a lay-person such as myself, but there are parties pondering what ‘pre-announcing’ really means, if this applies to non-commercial (public stations) who have their own set of agreements with the various parties listed above, and if internet streams should fall under the same rules as over-the-air.

There are other rules about archiving copyrighted works  and streaming-on-demand that prohibit us from offering shows such as the Klezmer Special, Toccata and Vocalise on the website for either listening or downloading.

It all makes my head hurt.  If you’re a copyright attorney who has some time to kill, and you want to pore over the laws, challenges and decisions and give us some free legal advice, please do!!

I can’t speak for other stations.  Of the ones we have had contact with, no one knows what’s right or wrong at this point.  Some post the listings, some bury them in their websites, and others are simply waiting until the dust has settled.  We are probably being overly cautious, but we’re playing with your donations if we take the chance on fines.

In summary, we really want to post the listings… but we’re playing it safe…  we just don’t think paying fines out of member donations is a great use of your trust.



For the insanely curious people who like to read law blogs, here are some things that I’ve been reading on this subject:

There’s a really good write-up of some of the parts that affect us here:

Some info on the agreement between CPB and Sound Exchange:


Avatar photo


Diana Ross is not the famous Supremes singer, but she does have big hair. Working in both Membership and Operations departments, she does a little bit of everything, including administering this website. You can contact her at dross@bccc.edu.

Comments are closed.