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It’s gold rush time out there for music industry lawyers, who racked up a major court victory last week against SiriusXM, and have now doubled down with a similar lawsuit against digital radio service Pandora.
The latest legal action came on Tuesday as the 1960’s duo Flo and Eddie — who performed hits like “It Ain’t Me Babe” with The Turtles — filed a fresh class action complaint in Los Angeles federal court, demanding that [company]Pandora[/company] should pay more for playing pre-1972 sound recordings.
The legal details are mind-numbing but, broadly stated, the cases turn on a novel legal theory based on state copyright laws — laws that, in the view of many people, were superseded by 1972 updates to the federal Copyright Act.
The novel theory hit pay dirt last week, however, when a Los Angeles judge ruled, in a case that also involved Flo and Eddie, that [company]SiriusXM[/company] had to pay federal and state copyright royalties. The surprise ruling led copyright lawyers to predict a flood of follow-up lawsuits (a prediction that now seems accurate.)
As for the “sound recording” royalties in question, they represent payments for record labels and the musicians who perform the song. For companies like Pandora, such royalties would be in addition to those they already pay to songwriters and their publishers.
Tuesday’s lawsuit in California follows a similar one that the music industry filed against Pandora in New York in August, and that is still ongoing.
The litigation also coincides with a sentimental campaign by the music industry for Congress to pass a “Respect Act” bill that would further expand sound recording copyrights.