Major labels sue SiriusXM over pre-1972 sound recordings

Thursday, September 12, 2013 - 12:55pm

Yesterday major record companies Sony, Universal, and Warner, along with smaller group ABKCO, filed copyright suit against satellite radio operator SiriusXM, alleging unauthorized use of pre-1972 sound recordings.

Late last month SoundExchange, the record industry administrator of digital sound recording copyrights, filed its own suit against Sirius for its failure to pay for its use of sound recordings released more than 41 years ago (see RAIN here).

Federal law didn't protect sound recording copyrights until 1972 (older recordings are protected by state laws -- and yesterday's suit cites California law). As such, Sirius hasn't paid for licensed use of these songs, which reportedly account for 10% to 15% of its programming, according to SoundExchange.

The New York Times covers the story here, The Verge here.

Court says DMCA not intended to apply to pre-72 recordings. Does this impact webcasters?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 12:35pm

A New York appeals court has ruled that the "safe harbor" provisions of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act do not extend to recordings made before 1972.

The ruling came in an appeal from Universal Music Group of a lower court decision which favored online music service Grooveshark. The service claimed (and was validated, at least at first) that it wasn't liable for user-uploaded pre-1972 sound recordings, as it was protected by the DMCA's "safe harbor" rules (read more here).

However, it's the DMCA which establishes and governs the way digital services (e.g. online radio) pay for the public performance of copyright sound recordings. Might this ruling call into question whether the law truly covers webcasters' use of pre-1972 recordings?

Digital Music News quotes the decision: "The statutory language at issue involves two equally clear and compelling Congressional priorities: to promote the existence of intellectual property on the Internet, and to insulate pre-1972 sound recordings from federal regulation... it is not unreasonable, based on the statutory language and the context in which the DMCA was enacted, to reconcile the two by concluding that Congress intended for the DMCA only to apply to post-1972 works."

We're looking forward to learning whether this decision has any impact on Internet radio. Read Digital Music News coverage here.

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