Thursday, October 2, 2014
Music Business/Law Tips - "Royalties for Oldies"
A recent California court case ruled that Sirius XM Radio (digital radio) must pay broadcast royalties for pre-1972 records it plays. The case was filed by The Turtles who sang on several big hits in the 1960s (i.e., Happy Together). Current Copyright law says that terrestrial (i.e., AM/FM band) radio stations don’t have to pay broadcast royalties to performers (only to songwriters via BMI, ASCAP or SESAC). Moreover, there was no copyright in sound recordings (only songs) prior to 1972. However, in 1995 the Digital Millenium Copyright Act carved out an exception whereby digital services like Sirius XM Radio must now also pay a performance royalty to performers and master rights owners when records are played on their stations. This royalty is collected by SoundExchange. The key issue was that Sirius XM was only paying out on records made from 1972 onward on the basis that no copyright existed prior to 1972 so there was no legal right to pay - artists like The Turtles felt they were getting screwed. The ruling is a major precedent and may result in terrestrial radio stations eventually being forced to pay broadcast royalties to performers as well. Of course Sirius XM will probably appeal, so keep posted to see if the decision stands. Ben McLane Esq Benmclane.com