On Monday, the California district court found SiriusXM liable for its failure to pay royalties to 1960s band, the Turtles (best known for their hit, “Happy Together”). The law suit, which began in 2013, centers on pre-1972 sound recordings. As a digital music service, SiriusXM must pay royalties to music publishers and master recording copyright holders when transmitting a song; whereas non-digital stations only must pay music publishers. However, U.S. copyright law did not provide protection for sound recordings until 1972. Previously, these recordings only obtained protection under state law. Therefore, SiriusXM claims that it should not have to pay royalties to the master recording rights holders when broadcasting “oldies,” like the music of the Turtles. Despite an earlier tentative ruling in SiriusXM’s favor, Judge Gutierrez ruled on Monday, that SiriusXM’s broadcast of pre-1972 recordings, violates bands’, like the Turtles, public performance rights; and thus, a license is needed. While this landmark ruling currently only affects California law, it is likely to have far reaching consequences for the music industry as a whole. See the Billboard article for further discussion of the possible consequences of this decision.
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