Myers Berstein
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SiriusXM and The Turtles are Not So Happy Together: Royalties Owed for Satellite Radio Use of Pre-1972 Recordings Pending Court Approval

TheTurtlesGettyImages.jpgFormer members of the 1960s rock group, The Turtles, brought a class action lawsuit against SiriusXM back in 2013 for playing their pre-1972 recordings without their permission. Just as the case was set to go to trial, SiriusXM decided to settle with the band and thousands of recording owners for a whopping $99 million.

Pre-1972 recordings are not covered under federal copyright laws, so instead The Turtles went after royalty payments owed under state copyright laws in California, Florida, and New York. Before the suit, digital radio services did not pay recording royalties on older songs even though they do pay songwriting royalties on both new and old songs.

SiriusXM has agreed to make two payments. The first is for past unlicensed use of pre-1972 recordings. The satellite radio company will pay a minimum of $25 million and up to $15 million in additional payments if the plaintiffs win appeals of performance rights issues in New York and Florida. Second, SiriusXM agreed to a 10-year license for recordings from all of the plaintiffs with a 5.5 percent royalty rate.

These payments are strictly for owners of pre-1972 recordings that have had their music played by SiriusXM without permission. This does not apply to recordings owned by record companies because SiriusXM settled a suit with them in 2015 for $210 million.

Since 2014, The Turtles have also had a lawsuit against streaming platform, Pandora, which is presently in front of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. No word if they plan to follow in the steps of SiriusXM.

The settlement still has to be approved by the court, but this is still a huge win for The Turtles and for other artists with pre-1972 recordings. Courts may end up divided on the issues, so the United States Supreme Court will need to weigh in on the matter to give all jurisdictions guidance.

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