Members of 1960s rock group The Turtles have settled their action against Sirius XM over what the band claimed were unpaid royalties for the use of ‘Pre 1972’ copyrights. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed. The filing of settlement papers was noted by both The Hollywood Reporter and National Law Journal.
New York’s highest court had heard oral arguments in the case, which was brought by the owner of The Turtles’ 1967 hit song “Happy Together” against Sirius XM Radio. The issue at the heart of the case was whether the copyright holders of recordings made before 1972 have a common law right to make radio stations and others pay for the use of the recordings (in the US, federal copyright law does not allow for the collection of what is called ‘needletime’ for post 1972 sound recordings. The lawsuit was filed by Flo & Eddie Inc., the company controlled by two founding members of the band that owns the rights to the recordings. Sirius XM argues it’s not required to pay royalties for recordings made before the federal Copyright Act was changed in 1972 to establish limited protections for recordings.
US District Judge Philip Gutierrez had already ruled that Sirius was liable under state copyright law. Two former band members of The Turtles, working as “Flo & Eddie,” were representing a class of thousands of owners of pre-1972 music.
The case was referred to the New York Court of Appeals from the federal appeals court.
In another interesting development, a new case has arising involving royalties for the use of music by broadcasters (rather than sound recordings) which are payable in the USA and are collected by four collection societies. The two largest PROs representing the performing rights in songs – ASCAP and BMI – are regulated by so called ‘consent decrees’. However, there are also two other smaller performing rights organisations in the US – SESAC and the much newer and privately owned Global Music Rights – which sit outside the consent decrees. And now America’s newest performing rights organisation, Global Music Rights, is being sued by the US radio industry in a bid to force the rights agency to submit to independent arbitration to set the rates broadcasters must pay to play the songs it represents.