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Sirius XM to Pay $210 Million to Record Companies for Pre-1972 Songs

Satellite-radio broadcaster Sirius XM has resolved a two-year legal battle with the music biz for its use of recordings created before 1972, agreeing to pay $210 million to five record companies.

Under the settlement, Sirius XM has rights through Dec. 31, 2017, for the music recordings from ABKCO Music & Records, Capitol Records, Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings and Warner Music Group. The deal resolves the lawsuit the companies filed against Sirius XM in September 2013.

“This is a great step forward for all music creators,” RIAA chairman and CEO Cary Sherman said in a statement. “Music has tremendous value, whether it was made in 1970 or 2015. We hope others take note of this important agreement and follow Sirius XM’s example.”

In their lawsuit, the record labels asserted the satellite-radio provider was airing pre-1972 recordings — from artists including the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Aretha Franklin and the Supremes — but refused to pay public-performance royalties for them. Federal copyright law didn’t cover sound recordings until 1972. The music companies, however, argued that those performances were covered by California common law and state statute, and in October 2014 won a major ruling in the case.

Sirius XM declined to comment on the settlement. In a regulatory filing Friday, the company provided details about the agreement in the case, Capitol Records LLC et al. v. Sirius XM Radio Inc., which was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

“The settlement resolves all past claims as to our use of pre-1972 recordings owned or controlled by the plaintiffs and enables us, without any additional payment, to reproduce, perform and broadcast such recordings in the United States through December 31, 2017,” Sirius XM said in the filing.

According to the record companies that sued Sirius XM, they owned or controlled about 80% of the pre-1972 recordings the satellite-radio broadcaster has historically used.

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