Old Songs, New Money – SiriusXM Settles Copyright Lawsuit

Sirius XM has resolved a piece of major litigation in its fight over its right to play pre-1972 recordings. In so doing, Sirius XM has settled with independent and major record companies for the satellite radio company’s alleged broadcasting of songs made before 1972 without permission and without paying royalties. The satellite radio broadcaster will pay $210 million to plaintiffs ABKCO Music & Records, Capitol Records, Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings, and Warner Music Group.

The dispute centers around the rights of artists and record labels to control the use of recordings made before 1972. What’s with 1972? Federal copyright law only protects sound recordings made after February 1972. Thus, rights and compensation for pre-1972 recordings is determined by certain state laws. Until recently, SiriusXM and many other radio stations paid nothing for the broadcast of these recordings.

The settlement provides a nationwide resolution for Sirius XM’s use of the plaintiffs’ pre-1972 recordings. Under the settlement agreement, SiriusXM will have license the covered songs through the end of 2017. After that, Sirius XM must negotiate with the record labels for use of the songs going forward.

The matter of pre-1972 copyright issues is not, however, completely resolved for SiriusXM.  It still faces an outstanding copyright lawsuit brought last year by the founders of the ‘60’s band, The Turtles.

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