Vol. LIII No. 5

Lien on Me: The Survival of Security Interests in Revenues from the Sale of an FCC License

Abstract: A debtor can give a security interest in collateral only when, among other things, the debtor has rights in that collateral. This rule becomes complicated when a holder of a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license wishes to grant a security interest in the proceeds it may receive from selling that license in the future. The question of when an FCC licensee acquires the right to receive revenues from the sale of its license is a controversial one, due to the fact that any sale of an FCC license cannot occur until there is (1) a contract for sale and (2) approval from the FCC. The existence of contingencies in future rights to payment, however, is not a new phenomenon. In several industries, acquisition of the item from which the right to payment stems triggers this right—in the FCC context, this right arises upon acquisition of the FCC license itself. This Note argues that, given the similarities between the FCC licensing scheme and these other industries, and the presence of only inconsequential differences, there is no reason to treat FCC licensing differently. As such, the right to receive revenues from the sale of an FCC license should be found to exist upon acquisition of the FCC license, and should not depend on whether the two contingencies required for sale have occurred.

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