Government Relations Resources

FCC Information on Subcarrier (SCA) Use

Before a (subcarrier-based) system for broadcasting FM stereo had been devised, hidden subcarriers were introduced to create extra revenue streams for FM broadcasters. Because early SCA (Subsidiary Communications Authority) channels used proprietary content, mostly background music, the FCC decided early on to treat SCA channels as private, regulating them more like telephone communications than broadcasting.

This created a perfect framework for radio reading services, whose expansion into the subcarrier world in the 1970s helped stimulate new ideas and technology for using SCAs. Soon there were plans to use FM SCAs to regulate traffic lights, shed loads during periods of peak power demand, provide voice pagers, download software and more.

To protect reading services, the FCC announced (Docket 82-1) that any non-commercial station selling an SCA channel must also provide one to a reading service upon request.

The Commission revisited this issue five years later, to address the issue of high fees being charged by main channel providers. “Incremental Costs” may be passed on to the radio reading services, and no more. This is widely interpreted to mean the station can only charge what it actually costs to provide electricity to the equipment and for the time the engineer spends on it. These costs are so low that in actual practice, almost all RRS SCA stations provide the SCA channel for free. Here you can read how the Commission ruled , in Docket 87-9 (Link to https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-87-30A1.pdf)

FCC Information on Infringement of LPFM Stations on Radio Reading Services’ SCA

In order to ensure that access to information continues to be available at the best possible quality on an SCA, LPFM Broadcasters are required to meet third adjacent channel spacing to full power stations operating a radio reading service.  https://transition.fcc.gov/Bureaus/Mass_Media/News_Releases/2000/nrmm0040.html

Information Regarding Copyright Law for Audio Information Services

From AFB Washington Report, December 1976

On September 30, 1976 Congress approved the House-Senate conference report on S.22, the first comprehensive revision of U.S. copyright law since its enactment in 1909.  President Ford signed the bill on October 19 as Public Law 94-553.

Of particular interest to readers are Sections 110, 112, 601, and 710, which have implications for subcarrier FM radio information services, importation of Braille books, and automatic approval of books for reproduction in Braille or recorded form.

Section 110 states:

. . . the following are not infringements of copyright: . . . (8) performance of a nondramatic literary work by or in the course of a transmission specifically designed for and primarily directed to blind or other handicapped persons who are unable to read normal printed material as a result of their handicap, or deaf or other handicapped persons who are unable to hear the aural signals accompanying a transmission of visual signals, if the performance is made without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage and its transmission is made through the facilities of: (i) a governmental body; or (ii) a noncommercial educational broadcast station (as defined in section 397 of title 47); or (iii) a radio subcarrier authorization (as defined in 47 CFR 73.293-73.295 and 73.593-73.595); or (iv) a cable system.

(9) performance on single occasion of a dramatic literary work published at least 10 years before the date of the performance, by or in the course of a transmission specifically designed for and primarily directed to blind and other handicapped persons who are unable to read normal printed material as a result of their handicap, if the performance is made without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage and its transmission is made through the facilities of a radio subcarrier authorization referred to in clause (8) (iii):  Provided, that the provisions of this clause shall not be applicable to more than one performance of the same work by the same performers or under the auspices of the same organization.

Section 112(d) permits up to 10 copies to be made of copyrighted material for broadcast by radio information service carriers for the blind or handicapped.  It reads as follows:

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, it is not an infringement of copyright for the governmental body or other nonprofit organization entitled to transmit a performance of a work under section 110(8) to make no more than ten (10) copies or phonorecords embodying the performance or to permit the use of any such copy or phonorecord by any governmental body or nonprofit organization entitled to transmit a performance of a work under section 110(8), if 1. any such copy or phonorecord is retained and used solely by the organization that made it, or by a governmental body or nonprofit organization entitled to transmit a performance of a work under section 110(8), and no further copies or phonorecords are reproduced from it; and 2.  any such copy or phonorecord is used solely for transmissions authorized under section 110(8), or for purposes of archival preservation or security; and  3.  the governmental body or nonprofit organization permitting any use of any such copy or phonorecord by any governmental body or nonprofit organization under this subsection does not make any charge for such use.

Another provision of Public Law 94-553 of special interest involves the distribution of Braille material not produced in the United States or Canada.  Section 601 (b) exempts from the restriction on the importation of nondramatic works in English not manufactured in the Untied States or Canada copies or works  “. . . reproduced in raised characters for the use of the blind.”

Section 710 is designed to expedite copyright clearance for nondramatic literary works to be reproduced in Braille or recorded form for the use of blind and physically handicapped individuals.  It reads as follows:

Sec. 710.  Reproductions for use of the blind and physically handicapped: voluntary licensing forms and procedures.  The Register of Copyrights shall, after consultation with the chief of the Division for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and other appropriate officials of the Library of Congress, establish by regulation standardized forms and procedures by which, at the time application covering certain specified categories of nondramatic literary works are submitted for registration under section 408 of this title, the copyright owner may voluntarily grant to the Library of Congress a license to reproduce the copyrighted work by means of Braille or similar tactile symbols, or by fixation of a reading of the work in a phonorecord, or both, and to distribute the resulting copies or phonorecord solely for the use of the blind and physically handicapped and under limited conditions to be specified in the standardized forms.

AFB Washington Report, December 1976

The following is legislation accepted and signed into law by President Clinton on September 16, 1996, as part of Public Law 104-197:

  1. The permission of publishers or copyright owners is now NOT required if an authorized entity reproduces or distributes a nondramatic literary work in a specialized format for the exclusive use of blind persons or others with physical disabilities.
  2. An “authorized entity” refers to a nonprofit organization or governmental agency whose primary mission is to provide specialized services relating to training, education, or adaptive reading or information access needs of qualified persons as mentioned above.
  3. “Specialized formats” include Braille, audio, or digital text exclusively for qualified persons as mentioned above.

International Copyright Law

If your service is located outside of the United States, this copyright information was provided by Allen Little, New Zealand:

Copyright Something of value to be considered…

Copyright laws vary from country to country but as a rule do not contravene or provide less copyright protection than the Berne Convention. It is important to be aware of the laws that apply and have competent legal advice on any obligations.

When considering copyright and its impact on audio information services, it is important to take into account the various international treaties and conventions.

The Berne Convention for protection of literary and artistic works (Paris Text 1971) Article 9 of the Berne Convention says, “Authors of literary and artistic works protected by this Convention shall have the exclusive right of authorizing the reproduction of these works, in any manner or form.  It shall be a matter for legislation in the countries of the Union to permit the reproduction of such works in certain special cases, provided that such reproduction does not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work and does not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the author. Any sound or visual recording shall be considered as a reproduction for the purposes of this Convention.”

Newspaper and magazine reading, which are our primary audio information service content, are literary works and the principle of fare and reasonable use applies. As a precaution, our service in New Zealand regularly broadcast a  disclaimer saying  “Material or items read on the Radio Reading Service are the copyright property of their original authors and publishers. No unauthorized use is permitted.”

Copyright is a protection that covers published and unpublished literary works, whatever the form of expression, provided such works are fixed in a tangible or material form. This means if something can be seen, heard, and/or touched it may be protected by copyright law. Copyright laws grant the creator exclusive rights to an original work and protection against its misuse. When authors write something original, it is thought to have an intellectual value which remains for many years in every country which signed the Berne Convention. A member country is entitled to establish greater periods of protection, but never less than what has been established by the Berne Convention.

From time to time terms like “international copyright” are used.  There are no “international copyrights” which enable protection of work throughout the world.  However, most countries offer protection to foreign works under international copyright treaties and conventions.

It is recommended specific matters are discussed with a competent Legal Professional such as a “Copyright Attorney.”

US Postal Service Free Matter for the Blind

The US Postal Service allows for materials sent to and from people who are blind or visually impaired to be sent free of charge when they are in specialized formats and not advertisements or requests for funding.  Read more about it on the USPS Website at https://about.usps.com/publications/pub347.pdf