Copyright Infringement

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
The poop just hit the revolving blades.


In a case that could have wide implications for the digital music business, a federal judge in California ruled on Monday that Sirius XM, the satellite radio giant, was liable for copyright infringement for failing to pay royalties on recordings made before 1972.

The case, filed last year by members of the 1960s band the Turtles (which recorded “Happy Together”), concerns an obscure aspect of music copyright that has become a major focus in the music industry’s efforts to collect more money from digital media.

By law, federal copyright applies only to recordings made on or after Feb. 15, 1972. But the Turtles, whose hits were made well before that date, argued that when Sirius XM played its songs without seeking a license or paying the group royalties, it infringed on its copyright protections under state laws.

The group filed class-action suits in California, Florida and New York, seeking more than $100 million in damages, and opened the floodgates on the issue. After the Turtles filed the suits, the major record companies followed with similar cases against both Sirius XM and Pandora Media, and industry groups have begun lobbying Congress over extending royalty laws to pre-1972 recordings.

In the first ruling on the issue, Judge Philip S. Gutierrez of United States District Court in Los Angeles on Monday granted summary judgment in the Turtles’ favor, saying that the group has the exclusive right to its recordings under California law, and establishing that Sirius XM had infringed on those rights by publicly performing the records without permission.

Sirius XM declined to comment, but music industry executives said that an appeal was likely. The next step in the case is a trial to set damages, to be scheduled next month.

The decision opens the door for the Turtles and other oldies acts to collect royalties from services like Sirius XM and Pandora, and music groups were quick to declare it an industrywide victory.

“This decision in California confirms what we have always known: All sound recordings have value, and all artists deserve to be paid fairly for the use of their music,” said Michael Huppe, chief executive of Sound-
Exchange, a nonprofit group that collects royalties from digital radio services like Sirius XM and Pandora on behalf of artists and record companies. “It does not — and should not — matter whether those recordings are protected by state or federal law.”

Harvey Geller, a longtime music industry lawyer who represented the Turtles, called the ruling “historic.”

“It gives artists and recording owners the ability to participate in the digital revolution in a way that they never before have been able to participate in,” said Mr. Geller, a former deputy general counsel for the Universal Music Group.

But the judge’s decision is limited to California, and its scope was unclear. A brief filed by Sirius XM last month warned that too broad a ruling would entail a “radical expansion” of intellectual property rights and also place AM-FM radio stations and retail stores, bars and restaurants in the position of infringing on copyright for playing music in public.

The value of the royalties at stake in the oldies cases was also unclear. SoundExchange estimates about $60 million is lost each year in uncollected royalties from oldies on all digital radio services. Up to 15 percent of the music that Sirius XM plays is from before 1972. It paid recording royalties last year equivalent to about 9 percent of its $3.8 billion in revenue.

SoundExchange is promoting a bill introduced in Congress this year, the Respect Act, to require digital services to pay royalties for playing pre-1972 recordings.


I guess the Turtles current tour isn't going so well
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Go get'em Flo & Eddie, their exploits with the music business are well-documented. They've been the screwees more than once in the past.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Great! A small counter to this anti-artist tidal shift that has been going on the last ~15 years. Hopefully we'll see more like that.
 

julius

Member
I'm all for artists' rights to their own music, but it seems odd to me that federal law could be trumped by state law.

But I'm no lawyer.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I'm all for artists' rights to their own music, but it seems odd to me that federal law could be trumped by state law.
The fact that the reach of Sirius (and the internet) isn't limited by state lines makes it even more interesting. :)
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
If music is being used to make money, then part of that money should probably go to the musicians that wrote and performed the music.

I think that's about the extent to which I agree with the current crop of copyright legislation and industry misinformation.
 

eclipseownzu

Gold Member
I love XM radio, but the fact that only 9% of its collected revenue is paid to the artists it makes its money from is sickening. That # has to increase, and maybe this ruling is the vehicle by which that happens.

My fear, however, is that this ruling will do nothing more than increase the amount I have to pay every month for XM. It will not hit the boardmembers or investors in the wallet, it will land squarely on us, the consumers.
 

Stroman

Platinum Member
I love XM radio, but the fact that only 9% of its collected revenue is paid to the artists it makes its money from is sickening. That # has to increase, and maybe this ruling is the vehicle by which that happens.

My fear, however, is that this ruling will do nothing more than increase the amount I have to pay every month for XM. It will not hit the boardmembers or investors in the wallet, it will land squarely on us, the consumers.
Bingo.
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