Some stereos can receive a signal just outside the commercial band at either end of 88 and 108. I legally can buy everything I need on eBay to transmit my own personal radio station.

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What legal problems may I run into not having a license for while transmitting on low power just outside the commercial frequency ban. What are my limitations to transmit a prerecorded, remixed and non-profit music freely?


What legal problems might you run into?

Well, you'd be violating 47 USC 301, which requires a license for anyone broadcasting in the United States. Penalties for that are given in 47 USC 501 (a fine of up to $10,000 and up to a year in prison), 47 USC 502 (an additional fine of $500 per day of violation), 47 USC 501(b)(2)(D) (forfeiture of up to $10,000 per day, with a maximum of $75,000), and 47 USC 510 (forfeiture of your equipment).

"Just outside the FM band" on the low end (below 88 MHz) is television channel 6, while on the high end (above 108 MHz) are frequencies used for airplane navigation. If your transmission interferes with a licensed user of channel 6, you're also in violation of 47 USC 333, which carries much the same penalties as violating section 301, but without the forfeiture of equipment. If your transmission interferes with air navigation, you're in violation of 49 USC 46308, which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Honestly, you'd be better off broadcasting inside the FM band: there, you can broadcast without a license under 47 CFR 15, which limits you to a broadcast power of 250 microvolts per meter at 3 meters (basically, you can broadcast to anyone in your house or maybe the next house over).

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  • What would be the penalty for first-time offenders? That's the maximum penalty and I can see it as a repeat offender getting those fines but as long as you stay "below the radar" and don't interfere with anybody else's signal would I be safe into doing so? – Muze Jul 11 '19 at 20:21
  • The penalty is highly variable: an individual broadcasting to their local neighborhood might get away with a small fine and loss of their equipment; a company running a high-power pirate radio station might see the maximum possible penalty. If you really want to run a personal radio station, I strongly recommend taking advantage of 47 CFR 15, which lets you legally run a very-low-power FM station without a license. – Mark Jul 11 '19 at 20:31
  • I read something about non-commercial licenses. But it also said that they are no longer taking applications. The ideas that I cover 30 or 50 mile radius but at the very least a 5-mile radius – Muze Jul 11 '19 at 20:35
  • A 50-mile radius is solidly into the professional end of things: you'll need a class C or C0 license, an antenna either several hundred meters tall or on top of a similarly prominent hill (which will require both a local building permit and FAA approval), and better equipment than you're likely to find on Ebay. A 5-mile radius could be done with a class A or LPFM license (or a class D license, but they're not issuing those any more) and a 30-meter antenna (still requiring a building permit, but probably not FAA approval). – Mark Jul 12 '19 at 22:15

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