This came up in comments on this question.

Since before the Internet was widely available, it's been common to pass along files received from other users or downloaded from a server somewhere. For amateur radio, however, the FCC has some rules concerning "third party communications", where Alice sends a message to Bill on behalf of Charlie, who isn't part of the communication (for purposes of this question, Charlie isn't under a license revocation).

If I send a downloaded file (one I didn't create) via a digital connection such as a mesh network, would this constitute "third party communication"? I have the file already stored in my local system; I'm not downloading it from a server in real time as I transmit to the mesh. I'm not being paid for the file, either as a condition to sending it, or on approval (like the old "shareware" concept). All I get out of the exchange is a good feeling for sharing something I've enjoyed, and the likelihood that someone else on the mesh will share something I might want.

With no "fiduciary interest" this ought to be legal (pending copyright etc. concerns), but does it in fact constitute "third party communication"?


From a Part 97 perspective, the definition of third party communications is:

Third party communications. A message from the control operator (first party) of an amateur station to another amateur station control operator (second party) on behalf of another person (third party).

If you send a file to Bob because you wish to share it with Bob, that is not a third party communication even though the file originated from somewhere else.

On the other hand, if I gave you the same file and asked you to send it to Bob, I am the third party and you are conducting third party communications.

  • $\begingroup$ That's the clarification I was looking for. The distinction is based on who initiated the process -- the sending operator or someone else. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Mar 12 '19 at 12:52

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