Sirius XM will appeal copyright ruling in $100 million lawsuit

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 01, 2014 7:36 PM

By Andrew Chung

(Reuters) - Satellite radio provider Sirius XM Holdings Inc will appeal a California federal judge's decision finding it liable of copyright infringement for airing pre-1972 songs by the band, The Turtles, and failing to pay royalties.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez found that California law gave the 1960s band copyright protection for its music, including the right of public performance, even though federal copyright only applies to recordings made after February 1972.

Sirius Chief Financial Officer David Frear said at a conference on Wednesday that the company intends to appeal the ruling that some have said could have wide reaching implications for not only digital music services, but for radio stations and venues that broadcast music from past decades as well.

"We think Judge Gutierrez is wrong," Frear said in remarks at a Deutsche Bank-sponsored conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

"We've been observing the law since we started service."

Turtles' lawyer Henry Gradstein said in an email to Reuters that “a better use of Sirius XM’s money would be to compensate the artists whose recordings have made Sirius XM a very profitable company."

Gradstein said that, unless both Gutierrez and the appellate court allow Sirius to directly appeal the Sept. 23 ruling, Sirius XM must first face trial on damages.

The Turtles founding members, Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, whose stage names were Flo and Eddie, are perhaps best known for their 1967 chart-topping hit "Happy Together." They filed their $100 million putative class action suit in 2013. Major record companies followed up with their own in California state court.

Frear said Gutierrez's ruling suggested that "every AM/FM station, bar, restaurant, stadium, Internet webcast or satellite radio guy has been operating in violation of California law."

The case, No. 13-cv-05693, is Flo & Eddie Inc v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc, et al, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

(Reporting By Andrew Chung. Editing by Andre Grenon)