Labels sue SiriusXM for use of pre-1972 recordings

The major record companies have sued SiriusXM over the satellite radio service’s use of recordings made before 1972, claiming that Sirius is not paying rights holders for the use of that music.

The suit stems from the fact that before 1972, there was no federal copyright protection for sound recordings, which instead were subject to protections that varied widely from state to state.

“SiriusXM is using my grandfather’s music to attract millions of subscribers and broadcasting his recordings for free,” Nicole Cooke, the granddaughter of soul singer Sam Cooke, said in an artists’ statement in support of the suit filed Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court by Capitol Records, Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music groups and ABCKO Music and Records.

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“SiriusXM has been enjoying record profits at the expense of artists like my grandfather for too long,” she said.

The suit argues that sound recordings are protected under common law and California law and rights holders should be paid for their use. The complaint alleges that “SiriusXM refuses to obtain licenses and pay for the daily public performance and reproduction of thousands of plaintiff’s pre-1972 recordings that SiriusXM copies and transmits to millions of its paying subscribers over dozens of satellite radio channels.”

The suit seeks unspecified damages and an injunction to prevent Sirius from further use of pre-1972 sound recordings.

The suit includes 35 pages listing hundreds of specific recordings said to have been transmitted by Sirius, by artists from Alice Cooper to Youngblood, identified as a “representative sampling of plaintiff’s pre-1972 recordings infringed by SiriusXM.”

Sirius officials so far have declined comment on the lawsuit.

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