June 26, 2015
Sirius XM Holdings Inc on Friday said it agreed to pay five record companies $210 million to settle a lawsuit accusing the satellite radio company of broadcasting songs made before 1972 without permission and without paying royalties.
The settlement resolves claims by Capitol Records LLC, Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings Inc, Warner Music Group and ABKCO Music & Records in a Sept. 2013 lawsuit over songs recorded by the likes of the Beatles, Patsy Cline, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones.
It ends part of a long-running battle between the music industry and broadcasters over the right to play songs recorded before Feb. 15, 1972.
Federal copyright law does not cover such songs, and the industry has pressured Congress to expand its royalty rights.
The Sirius accord resolves all claims over its prior broadcasts of the record companies' songs, which comprise 80 percent of the older music it has played, and will let it play those songs in the United States through 2017.
Sirius said it may also license the songs from 2018 to 2022, with royalty rates to be negotiated or set through binding arbitration.
The companies also agreed to dismiss their lawsuit, which was filed in a California state court in Los Angeles, with prejudice, meaning it cannot be brought again, Sirius said.
"This is a great step forward for all music creators," said Cary Sherman, chief executive of the Recording Industry Association of America. "We hope others take note of this important agreement and follow Sirius XM's example."
Sirius spokesman Patrick Reilly declined to comment. A copy of the June 17 settlement was not immediately available.
Internet radio service Pandora Media Inc was sued by the same five companies in a similar April 2014 lawsuit in New York. "We are confident in Pandora's legal position," spokesman Dave Grimaldi said on Friday.
Sirius' settlement is separate from litigation over pre-1972 songs brought by recording artists themselves.
Federal judges in New York and Los Angeles have ruled that Sirius must face state law copyright infringement claims in class action litigation by members of the 1960s band the Turtles, which recorded "Happy Together."
The Turtles' lawyer Henry Gradstein said "we are happy to have paved the way" for owners of older songs to be paid, and look forward to obtaining compensation for class members.
Capitol and UMG are part of Vivendi SA, and Sony Music is part of Sony Corp.
The case is Capitol Records LLC et al v. Sirius XM Radio Inc, Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County, No. BC520981.