7:28 AM PDT 9/23/2014 by Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter
In a ruling with far-reaching consequences, Flo & Eddie of the Turtles convince a judge that their public performance rights were violated
A California federal judge has delivered a legal earthquake in the music industry by declaring Flo & Eddie of The Turtles the victors in a lawsuit against SiriusXM over the public performance of pre-1972 sound recordings. The plaintiffs are seeking $100 million in damages, but the money is hardly the only consequence of a ruling on Monday that could eventually disrupt the operations of the satellite radio giant as well as other services like Pandora.
The lawsuit was filed in August 2013 and dealt with music created before sound recordings began falling under federal copyright protection. Flo & Eddie aimed to punish SiriusXM for not seeking authorization nor paying royalties on hit songs like “Happy Together,” “It Ain’t Me Babe” and “She’d Rather Be With Me,” while the satcaster warned that interpreting state laws to cover public performance “would radically overturn decades of settled practice.”
U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez, whopreviously acknowledged that the case “could have far-reaching effects,” has elected to grant summary judgment to the plaintiffs on the issue of whether SiriusXM violates public performance rights.
In reaching the conclusion, the judge examines a California law that was enacted in 1982 and meant to address pre-1972 recordings. The statute, like many state laws passed in the aftermath of U.S. Congress’s decision to expand federal copyright law, was silent on whether “exclusive ownership” of pre-1972 sound recordings carries within it the exclusive right to publicly perform the recording. As such, the judge had to determine whether California’s law was inclusive or exclusive — and the judge’s reading of the law is that other than the exception for cover songs, there’s nothing exclusive about it.
Judge Gutierrez writes he “infers that the legislature did not intend to further limit ownership rights, otherwise it would have indicated that intent explicitly.”
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