The US Court of Appeals' Second Circuit upheld a 1997 jury decision that Yahoo's LAUNCHcast - a webcasting service now operated by CBS that provides Internet radio stations customized for individual users – is not an "interactive service" as defined in 17 U.S.C. §114(j)(7):
An “interactive service” is one that enables a member of the public to receive a transmission of a program specially created for the recipient, or on request, a transmission of a particular sound recording, whether or not as part of a program, which is selected by or on behalf of the recipient. The ability of individuals to request that particular sound recordings be performed for reception by the public at large, or in the case of a subscription service, by all subscribers of the service, does not make a service interactive, if the programming on each channel of the service does not substantially consist of sound recordings that are performed within 1 hour of the request or at a time designated by either the transmitting entity or the individual making such request. If an entity offers both interactive and noninteractive services (either concurrently or at different times), the noninteractive component shall not be treated as part of an interactive service.
Specifically, the US Court of Appeals found that LAUNCHcast's
- Users could not request specific musical works through LAUNCHcast
- Transmissions were not specially created for the user within the meaning of §114(j)(7)
Nobody disputes point #1 above, but point #2 is debatable. At least I found BMG's argument that "...Any service that reflects user input is specially created for and by the user and therefore qualifies as an interactive service" to be compelling. But the court did not "read the statute so broadly." Ultimately, the intent of §114(j)(7), as revised, guided the court to its decision.
The decision means that LAUNCHcast may pay statutory master performance royalties to SoundExchange instead of negotiating fees for each master with various record companies. The designation of a music service as "non-interactive" impacts royalties reportable to music publishers as well.
According to The Broadcast Law Blog:
"Other cases in other circuits would not be bound by this decision, though they will no doubt find it to be instructive."
Do you agree with the Second Circuit?
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