Authentication of Electronic Signatures on eFiling Statements of Account

Section 111 of the Copyright Act (“Act”), title 17 of the United States Code (“Section 111”), provides cable operators with a statutory license to retransmit a performance or display of a work embodied in a primary transmission made by a television station licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”). Cable system statutory licensees are required to file Statements of Account (“SOAs”) and pay royalty fees to the Copyright Office. SOAs contain information on a cable operator’s channel line-ups and gross receipts for the sale of cable service to the public. Payments made under the cable statutory license are remitted semi-annually to the Office, which invests the royalties in United States Treasury securities pending distribution of the funds to those copyright owners who are entitled to receive a share of the fees.

Since 2007, the Copyright Office has been implementing plans to reengineer the workflow of its Licensing Division (“Division”) for the administration, processing, and recordkeeping of electronically filed SOAs and related documents. The goals of this ongoing effort are manifold: (1) to facilitate the timely processing of SOAs; (2) to enable the Division to better manage its royalty investment accounts; (3) to expedite the availability of SOAs and other records for public inspection; and (4) to better control costs for those who participate in the statutory licensing system.

One of the key reengineering efforts is to digitize the royalty fee collections process.  The Office is in the process of configuring and deploying a commercial off the shelf (“COTS”) computer software package as part of an overall business process reengineering effort. The COTS package will support the development of an efficient electronic system for filing, managing, and retrieving Statements of Account, royalty payments, notices, amendments, and other documents related to the work of the Licensing Division. The COTS package will provide the Office with the capability to automate the reengineered processes and provide a platform for managing stakeholders’ needs online. The Office has named the new electronic filing system “eLi” (‘eLi” or “Electronic Licensing”).

Central to the success of eLi is the establishment of a robust identity authentication system for the preparation and electronic filing of SOAs. This authentication will be accomplished through an electronic signature process. An authentication system for electronic filings is necessary because: (1) it establishes the identity of the individual(s) preparing the form; (2) it establishes the identity of the individual charged with the responsibility of certifying and signing the SOA  during a secure online session; (3) it creates an electronically signed record in a format that accurately reflects  the information provided by the cable system as submitted at the time of the electronic signing; and (4) it helps protect digital documents from tampering. In establishing eLi, the Office must revise its regulations to allow for the use of electronic signatures as the means of verifying the identity of the individual signing the SOA and linking that individual to a specific electronic record. The Office requests comments on proposed regulations governing the electronic signature process for filing cable Statements of Account.