Pandora settles pre-1972 claim – but CBS fights on

November 2015

Sound recordings



An Illinois couple who own several recording companies specializing in doo-wop, jazz, and rhythm and blues have filed law suit against the major satellite and Internet radio companies in the US over their playing of pre-1972 songs. Following on from the actions from Flo & Eddie of the Turtles and and RIAA, it’s the third lawsuit that seeks to obtain payment for use of sound recordings under state copyright laws. Arthur and Barbara Sheridan filed two lawsuits in New Jersey federal court: one against Pandora and Sirius XM (PDF) and another against iHeartMedia (PDF), the parent company of online music service iHeartRadio. Their lawsuits seek class action status, looking to represent owners of pre-1972 songs. The action says that the companies have derived “significant benefits,” including “millions of dollars in annual revenue,” by playing those songs without permission, the suit alleges.
In an action brought by ABS Entertainment, which owns the recordings of Al Green, among others, terrestrial radio broadcaster CBS has argued that not only does state law not apply to their use – a matter the recorded music industry had until recently accepted this interpretation of the law – CBS also says that as it only plays re-mastered versions of pre-1972 sound recordings, these actually have a post 1972 copyright copyright saying “In fact, every song CBS has played in the last four years has been a post-1972 digital sound recording that has been re-issued or re-mastered”.
Meanwhile Pandora has confirmed that it has reached a settlement with the major labels over its use of pre-1972 sound recordings. The streaming platform follows the lead of US satellite radio service Sirius which, back in June, agreed to pay $210 million to the three majors – Universal, Sony and Warner – and ABKCO Music, which is best known for controlling the early Rolling Stones catalogue, with Pandora paying the labels $90 million for past and future usage of pre-1972 repertoire More on ArtsTechnica here and the Hollywood Reporter here.

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