Legal Analysis of the SiriusXM Loss in New York

First, a disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, nor am I even studying to be one. None of this should be considered any kind of legal advice. I’m just a guy who likes copyright law, and due to the magic of the Internet, I am able to actually read the various court cases. I suggest that you do the same, so I’ve included links to them in this story.

Now, about that. State court rulings, especially below the appeals court level, are still relatively hard to find. The only source I could get for many of these cases comes from a site called Casetext. While they make the entire texts of the rulings available, after a few minutes, an overlay pops up asking you to register, and it won’t let you read the rest of the text until you do. Refreshing the page will give you another couple of minutes. This annoys me as much as it annoys you, and if I find another site that has the rulings, I’ll update the links.

A couple of days ago, SiriusXM once again lost to Flo & Eddie, former band members of The Turtles, and current holders of the band’s sound recordings. I posted an article about it called SiriusXM loses to Turtles again, this time in New York. At that point, I didn’t have the time to go through the entire ruling. But I have now, and boy, is it a doozy.

Unsurprisingly, I don’t think this case was correctly decided. In this article, I’ll analyze the ruling, and show why I think it was wrong. But be forewarned, there is a lot of legalese to go through, and a lot it involves copyright concepts that are fairly obscure. Nonetheless, it is a fairly significant ruling (more than the California case), so it’s well worth reading if you’re a copyright wonk like me.
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SiriusXM loses to Turtles again, this time in New York

FIrst of all, my apologies for the lateness of this post, and for not updating this blog in a while. There are several stories in the pipeline, but I personally haven’t had time to finish them. I’m working on it, but you know what they say about life.

As has been widely reported, the SiriusXM cable radio station has once again lost to Flo & Eddie, the two former Turtles members who hold the copyrights to the Turtles catalog. SiriusXM had already lost in California, and now they lost again, this time in New York State. Continue reading

SiriusXM Loses To Turtles

Things are about to get weird in California. As has been widely reported, the Turtles have won summary judgement against SiriusXM for the public performance of their music.

Having read the judgement, and the relevant California statutes, it’s actually not that surprising.

California is one of the very few states that creates blanket rights in sound recordings, not just rights of reproduction and distribution, and the only one I’m aware of that doesn’t explicitly carve out radio and television broadcasts. SiriusXM’s argument that the rights are meant to specify those that are “left over” from federalization likewise don’t have much teeth, since federal copyright explicitly leaves all rights intact for pre-1972 recordings.

But legal wranglings aside, this ruling is going to create a whole mess of interesting problems. Here’s why.

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Pandora And SiriusXM Pay Royalties to Pre-1972 Artists

If you have been following stories about Pandora, this headline may surprise you. Did something happen recently? Did they lose some lawsuit? Change their policies?

In fact, nothing whatsoever has changed. Pandora and SiriusXM are paying exactly the same royalties they were yesterday. The key word is the word “artist.” If you think songwriters are “artists,” then the statement is true, and always was. But if you are talking about recording artists – artists who perform the song on the recordings, but did not write the music – then the title is wrong.

Without clarifying which sort of “artist” you’re talking about, the title is misleading. If you are deliberately being misleading, then in my book, you are lying.

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