Turtles band members win copyright dispute against Sirius XM

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 23, 2014 11:06 PM

By Devika Krishna Kumar and Andrew Chung

(Reuters) - A U.S. judge has sided with members of the 1960s band the Turtles in their dispute with Sirius XM Holdings Inc, ruling the satellite radio provider infringed on copyrights by airing their pre-1972 songs without paying royalties.

U.S. District Court Judge Philip Gutierrez ruled in favor of Flo & Eddie on Monday, saying that copyright ownership of a sound recording includes the exclusive right to publicly perform that recording.

Flo & Eddie was created in 1971 and is owned and controlled by Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, two of the founding members of the Turtles, who were most popular for their 1967 hit single “Happy Together”. The lawsuit was filed in August last year, seeking royalties from the satellite broadcaster.

"Flo & Eddie," the judge ruled, "has the right to possess and use its sound recordings and prevent others from possessing and using them."

In addition to broadcasting and streaming Flo & Eddie’s sound recordings, Sirius XM had allegedly engaged in some copying of Flo & Eddie’s sound recordings in the operation of its business, according to the lawsuit.

Though songs recorded before 1972 are not covered by U.S. federal copyright law, bands and recording labels have been seeking protection and royalties under state laws.

The ruling, in the central district of California, could potentially make it more expensive for satellite-radio broadcasters and Internet radio companies such as Pandora Media Inc to feature classic songs on their playlists.

In the ruling, Judge Gutierrez did not grant summary judgment on the claim that Sirius XM copied the songs improperly to create libraries, databases and voice transitions, saying many facts about the allegation are still in dispute.

Sirius XM could not be immediately reached for comment.

The suit was filed as a putative class action case, seeking $100 million. Those who could potentially join the class action include other artists with pre-1972 songs.

The case is 13-cv-05693, Flo & Eddie Inc. v. Sirius XM Radio Inc., et al in the United States District Court, Central District of California.

(Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in Bangalore; Editing by Ken Wills)