updated 09:51 pm EDT, Wed September 11, 2013
Music unprotected under federal copyright, safe under CA law
In a new legal volley against digital broadcasters, music companies Sony, Universal, Warner -- in conjunction with smaller label ABKCO -- have filed suit against Sirius XM for unauthorized use of music and complete nonpayment of royalties for broadcasting music recorded before February 15, 1972 that isn't protected by federal copyright law. The suit has been filed in California, which has a state law protecting state industry that recognizes music copyright and protects recordings made well before 1972, in conflict with federal law.
The RIAA, representing the companies, said in a statement regarding the complaint that Sirius XM's "self-serving decision means that it pays a band like the Four Tops when it uses the 1973 hit, 'Ain't No Woman (Like the One I Got)' but not when it broadcasts the group's iconic songs from the 60's like 'Baby I Need Your Loving,' and 'Sugar Pie Honey Bunch.'"
Musician and vocalist Eric Burdon agrees with the record labels' action. "It's always been true that older artists find it harder to earn a living. How long can we be out there on the road? How long can a body suffer the trials of constant travel? SiriusXM's treatment of elder artists such as myself is totally unfair. They're using our music to attract subscribers" but offering no compensation, the lead vocalist from The Animals declared.
The suit is the third filed against Sirius XM for the same matter in a month. The rock band The Turtles filed suit, as well as royalty management company Sound Exchange. The RIAA-led group is seeking unspecified damages and a declaratory judgement. The Turtles and Sound Exchange are seeking upwards of $100 million in damages each.