According to the Wall Street Journal, New York’s highest court is considering a copyright dispute between SiriusXM Radio and Flo & Eddie, Inc., the owner of The Turtles’ 1967 hit song Happy Together, as well as It Ain’t Me Babe and She’d Rather Be With Me.
The case before the New York Court of Appeals will determine whether state common law established a royalty obligation for satellite and Internet radio companies that play music made before 1972.
Federal copyright law is applicable to recordings made after 1972, and states were left to create their own copyright rules for music released prior to this date. SiriusXM has operated under the premise that Section 114 of the Copyright Act allows them to broadcast recordings recorded prior to 1972. The law limits exclusive rights and sets forth how the owners of the recordings are to be compensated. The royalty rates paid for different types of broadcast outlets are set by the Copyright Royalty Board, and the SoundExchange collects the royalties and pays them to the owners of the copyrights.
If the Court of Appeals rules against SiriusXM, their cost of doing business will drastically increase. It has been alleged that damages are at least $100 million, but possibly more.
This case is one part of a broader, national copyright battle between older artists and Internet radio companies. In fact, similar litigation has been filed in California and Florida, each claiming copyright infringement based upon the laws of those states.
If you need assistance with registering a copyright or trademark, or help handling opposition to your trademark application, contact the legal team at The Swenson Law Firm to schedule an initial consultation.