A group of record labels today sued SiriusXM in California state court for using songs recorded before 1972 without paying the artists and rights holders who brought those songs to life.
Through a quirk of history, federal copyright law did not protect sound recordings until 1972. Recordings made before 1972 -- staples of satellite radio -- are protected by state laws. SiriusXM has interpreted that fact such that they only pay for the use of songs recorded after 1972, and not for using the songs that were recorded before 1972.
"California has provided common law and statutory protection for pre-72 recordings without any exclusions and including the right of public performance," according to the record companies' complaint, which further states: "SiriusXM refused to obtain the licenses and pay for the daily public performance and reproduction of thousands of plaintiffs' pre-72 recordings that SiriusXM advertises and transmits to millions of its paying subscribers over dozens of its satellite radio channels."
In addition to Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings and Warner Music Group as plaintiffs, the lawsuit includes ABKCO, the label representing a variety of the most popular legacy musicians whose works are being exploited, including The Rolling Stones, The Animals and Sam Cooke.