Pandora Preparing to Pay $90 Million for Pre-1972 Recordings

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That’s according to the New York Post, which is now reporting that Pandora has agreed to settle over the contentious issue of pre-1972 recordings.  Specifically, the legal question has been whether companies like Pandora are responsible for paying performance royalties for recordings released prior to that date.

The $90 million payout would pale in comparison to a recently-ordered $210 million for Sirius XM Radio, though Pandora’s settlement apparently only covers 2015 and 2016.  The suggests a far larger liability ahead for Pandora, based on the Post’s reported estimate.

The Sirius royalty decision followed years of litigation by recording labels, with oldies band The Turtles (think “Happy Together”) ultimately spearheading the victory.  Indeed, on the momentum of the monstrous Sirius decision, the Turtles soon started litigating against Pandora.

Besides being a year during the Nixon administration, 1972 marks the all-important date when recording copyright was officially federalized by US Congress.  That raises complicated questions over whether broadcast performance rights apply to a patchwork of state-based copyrights, with companies like Sirius and Pandora predictably arguing that they don’t.

2 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    I find it hilarious that artists started the legal suits and the labels jumped in just in time to receive the settlement money. Then the courts say all is good and everyone walks away happy except for the artists who will probably receive next to nothing out of all of this.

    Life sucks. When all else fails you just get back up to get screwed over some more.

  2. Actually

    The Turtles sued as sound copyright owners (basically a label), which means that artists who don’t control their masters wouldn’t be eligible for the class action. And consider who benefits from class action. Not the plaintiffs, but the lawyers who can rake in well north of 60 percent of the monetary award. This is why The Turtles lawyers were actually trying to PREVENT the SiriusXM settlement.

    These aren’t white knights. The only way to solve this in a way that guarantees fair payment to artists is through policy. Preferably full federalization of pre-’72s, but if not that, then an extension of royalty obligations in S. 114 of the US Copyright Act to include digital performances of older sound recordings.