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SiriusXM Sued by Record Labels Over Airplay of Pre-1972 Classics

Major record labels have filed suit against SiriusXM, claiming that the satellite radio giant has failed to recompense them for the airplay of thousands of classic recordings made before 1972.

The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday, contends that SiriusXM owes compensation to the labels and the entities representing artists including the Rolling Stones, the Animals and Sam Cooke.

Although federal copyright law wasn’t extended to sound recordings until 1972, such performances are covered by California common law and state statute, the labels contend in the suit.

The lawsuit was filed by Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings and Warner Music Group, as well as ABKCO, the label representing a variety of musicians.

The suit notes that a “significant portion of SiriusXM’s channels feature classic sound recordings, including channels exclusively devoted to performing recordings from the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.”

The suit also contends that SiriusXM has reproduced the recordings — from a long list of artists including the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Aretha Franklin and the Supremes— and copied them to its servers for transmission to its subscribers. While SiriusXM compensates artists for post-1972 recordings, it refuses to pay public performance royalties for music before then, the suit states.

The litigation, filed by Russell Frackman, Marc Mayer and Emily Evitt of Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp, notes that California courts first recognized a common law property right in pre-1972 recordings in a 1969 case involving Capitol Records and a company that made duplicate recordings and put them up for sale. The state passed a law in 1982 to provide statutory protection to such works.

Among other things, the suit seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions against SiriusXM, compensation for the “unlawful proceeds” attributed to the use of the pre-1972 music and punitive damages.

A spokeswoman for SiriusXM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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