Flo & Eddie—performers of the Turtles’ hit record “Happy Together”—have recently been engaging in a successful spree of $100 million class action lawsuits against digital broadcaster Sirius XM. With cases in New York, California, and Florida federal courts, the basis for these suits is Sirius XM’s underpayment of royalties and unlicensed public performances of pre-1972 sound recordings. The significance of the year 1972 is that sound recordings were first accorded federal copyright protection that year, but on an exclusively prospective basis. Sirius XM does not dispute the fact that it does not currently pay rights holders for these vintage recordings. In fact, it takes the position that while it may be required under federal law to pay royalties for the public performance of post-1972 sound recordings, it is not required to do so for pre-1972 sound recordings. The reason why requires an examination into a segment of the history of U.S. copyright law.
This post was originally published on the Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal website on May 9, 2016. The original post can be accessed via the Archived Link button above.
Adachi, Tatsuya, "Not Happy Together: The Turtles’ Epic Quest for Performance Royalties & the Case for Federalizing Pre-1972 Sound Recordings" (2016). AELJ Blog. 119.