Sirus XM Sued Over Pre-1972 Recordings

With respect to federal law there were no copyright protections until 1972. The Supreme Court has ruled that state laws govern for pre-1972 recordings. Most states like California and New York extend exclusive ownership rights to pre-1972.


Sirus’ legal troubles began with a class action lawsuit from the founding members of the Turtles suing under California state law to recover for use of their pre-1972 songs by Sirus XM. California state law gives the artists the exclusive rights until 2047.


Now Sirus is facing even more charges from big labels. Capitol Records LLC, Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings Inc. and Warner Music Group Corp. have all now sued Sirus in California state court to recover for intellectual property right violations. The complaint alleges that Sirus refused to obtain the licenses for the songs that it distributes to millions of listeners.


Sirus has also been sued by SoundExchange, a nonprofit performance rights organization appointed by the federal government to manage copyright and trademark royalty terms, for $50 million in underpayments of digital royalties. SoundExchange alleges that Sirus illegally deducted the pre-1972 recordings from their digital royalties.

All this litigation against Sirus XM also affects radio stations, television networks, and others who play pre-1972 recordings. Typically these songs are played under blanket licenses that cover the musical compositions, but not the sound recordings. This opens these entities up to possible state law intellectual property charges.


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