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VerStandig Objects to Judge’s Opinion

Geo-fencing streaming royalty exemption is at issue

The Virginia broadcaster at the center of a streaming royalty lawsuit objects to a magistrate judge’s opinion that jeopardizes its suit.

VerStandig Broadcasting in a motion filed this week claims the judge’s opinion, which concluded the case should be tossed, was based on a “fundamental misconception” about the plaintiff’s suit. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Urbanski will ultimately make the final decision.

The declaratory judgment suit, filed by VerStandig in federal court in Virginia in April 2014, argues that using “geo-fencing” would qualify it for an exemption under webcasting copyright law and protection from SoundExchange, the entity responsible for collecting music recording royalties and distributing them to copyright owners.

Geo-fencing is streaming technology that would allow a broadcaster to limit streaming content to a defined area — in this case 150 miles of its transmitter. SoundExchange, which moved to dismiss the suit in June arguing the court lacks jurisdiction in the matter, claims in court documents the 150-mile royalty exemption set down by the Copyright Office only applies to satellite and cable systems and not broadcast streaming via the Internet.

VerStandig seeks a declaration that it will not be liable for copyright infringement under the Copyright Act. The broadcaster claims the magistrate’s recent findings were incomplete and based on the understanding that VerStandig planned to use geo-fencing on only WTGD(FM) in Harrisonburg, Va., which currently does not stream its on-air programming.

However, VerStandig also intends to use the technology on the current Internet streams of fellow Harrisonburg market stations WQPO(FM) and WJDV(FM), which is something the magistrate judge did not consider, according to court documents.

Judge Recommends Dismissal of Streaming Royalty Suit