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Music labels sue Pandora over pre-1972 songs

  • Sony, Universal, Warner Music, and indie label ABKCO are suing Pandora (P +1%) for allegedly violating New York's common-law copyright protections by not paying recording royalties on songs recorded before Feb. 15, 1972.
  • The songs in question include works from popular acts such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan. They aren't covered by federal copyright law, but the labels argue state law takes precedent.
  • Pandora's recording royalty payments to SoundExchange for songs made after Feb. 1972 account for the lion's share of its licensing costs. The company recently claimed (while explaining a subscription fee hike) the rate it pays SoundExchange has risen 53% over the last 5 years, and is set to rise another 9% in 2015.
  • How times have changed: U.S. copyright law originally provided protection for only 14 years, with the right to renew for another 14 if the original copyright holder is still alive.
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Comments (3)
  • deercreekvols
    , contributor
    Comments (6795) | Send Message
    I hope my Frank Sinatra Radio station doesn't go away...
    21 Apr 2014, 11:18 AM Reply Like
  • manicdvln
    , contributor
    Comments (1453) | Send Message
    This dog will never make money and record labels will keep pounding until this company no longer exists.
    21 Apr 2014, 11:48 AM Reply Like
  • dgulick
    , contributor
    Comments (2003) | Send Message
    The record labels are mad that the law doesn't provide them the royalty windfall the CRB awarded them for the post-1972 recordings, but they don't have a legal leg to stand on, the law is the law. (The real questions is whether the labels are even entitled to the CRB performance royalty rates -- FM radio doesn't pay performers a dime).


    Findings in the SiriusXM case filed last fall (which this lawsuit is identical to) will be out in a few weeks and will give some insight into how this case will go. The fact is, labels and musicians know that music streaming is the future and so they are doing everything in their legal power to grab as much of it as they can. There is an upper limit, however, and that is the direct deals that Apple and others have negotiated, and honestly, it's not that far above the statutory rates that P currently pays.
    21 Apr 2014, 01:38 PM Reply Like
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