The Turtles making Sirius XM Radio Inc (NASDAQ:SIRI) turn purple
The Turtles were the quintessential 1960’s musicians and of their biggest hits was the “Happy Together” song from an album of the very same name. Today, they are making Sirius XM Radio Inc (NASDAQ:SIRI) play to their lawsuit tune. They have alleged that the satellite broadcaster played their songs without prior permission. The lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court in Los Angeles this week on behalf of the founding members of the band.
All of this sounds good when you first hear it, but it also brings to the fore an oddity in the copyrights law. Only recordings that have been made since 1972 are protected by the Federal Law. This particular album was cut in 1967 and had the protection of a State law. The lead attorney for the Turtles, harry Gradstein said that this particular law was applied in varying degrees only in a handfuls of states.
A matter of law
The civil code in California protects recordings before 1972 against any unauthorized duplication up until 2047. State courts have clearly ruled that it is possible to protect sound recordings in a conversion, misappropriation or even an unfair competition claim. The suit is seeking class-action status and a minimum of $100M in damages in being demanded.
This rule did not pose to be such an issue in the past as terrestrial radio broadcasters were exempted from paying any performance royalties on all the sound recordings, irrespective of when they were made. This was because the recording artists receive a lot of exposure from airplay that technically translates into sales.
The current law says that any sound recordings that have been made before 1972 might be protected until 2067 under the state law. As per the U.S Copyright Office, post this period, they will automatically enter the public domain.