Statement on Turtles Victory: All Digital Radio Must Pay for Pre-1972 Recordings

Statement on Turtles Victory: All Digital Radio Must Pay for Pre-1972 Recordings

Yesterday, the Turtles won a critical legal victory in their lawsuit against Sirius XM (Flo & Eddie Inc. v. Sirius XM Radio Inc.) (Read the ruling here.)  The Turtles sued because Sirius XM has taken the position that it doesn’t need permission – and therefore doesn’t need to pay for use of – recordings protected by state law, even though it does pay for recordings that are protected by federal law.  Yesterday, a California federal court sided with the Turtles, holding that Sirius XM infringed Flo & Eddie’s rights by playing their recordings on satellite [and internet] radio without a license.

Earlier this year, SoundExchange joined with a coalition of artists in launching Project72, a campaign to ensure fair compensation for those who recorded music before 1972 and in support of H.R. 4772, the RESPECT Act.

“This decision in California confirms what we have always known: all sound recordings have value, and all artists deserve to be paid fairly for the use of their music. It does not – and should not — matter whether those recordings are protected by state or federal law,” said SoundExchange President and CEO Michael Huppe.

“While we are thrilled with the Turtles’ legal victory, it’s unfortunate that artists and labels were forced to pursue litigation just to receive fair payment for their art. Legacy artists like the Turtles built the foundation of music today – music that helps Sirius XM make billions of dollars a year – and it is outrageous that some digital radio services believe they can use the music of legacy artists for free.

It is clear now more than ever that Congress should quickly move to pass the RESPECT Act.  The bill, introduced by Representatives George Holding (R-NC) and John Conyers (D-MI), would require digital radio services to pay royalties to pre-1972 artists when their music is played. The RESPECT Act would also give Sirius XM, Pandora, and other services an easy and efficient way to get the rights that the federal court in the Turtles case has confirmed they need – and to give the artists the payment they deserve,” said Huppe.

Quotes from legacy recording artists in support of this decision:

“Today we are one step closer to pre-1972 music creators receiving fair pay. The ruling against Sirius XM for playing, but not paying Flo & Eddie (aka The Turtles), is a victory in music licensing history,” Richie Furay, of Buffalo Springfield.

“It is good that a federal judge made clear that online and mobile music services that have pre- 1972 recordings on their playlists should pay the artists who created these recordings. This decision puts in high relief how arbitrary the idea of 1972 is as a dividing line. If Aretha Franklin is driving listeners to a digital music service, she should share in the revenue that is generated,” T Bone Burnett.

“Winners never quit and quitters never win. The recording artists of the pre-72 era are winners and we are not quitting until it’s all made right for every single one of us,” Sam Moore.

“This music is our legacy, and we are grateful that the court in California has acknowledged that artists have the right to be compensated when it is used by digital radio services,” Martha Reeves.

“The Court’s ruling in favor of the Turtles makes it clear that all recordings are worthy of protection.  It’s a matter of simple fairness and I am delighted that legacy artists are being heard by our justice system. Thanks to the Turtles for bringing this issue front and center.  Now more than ever it’s clear that Congress should pass the RESPECT Act, which clearly and fairly makes sure that ALL artists are treated fairly by digital radio,”Mark Farner, Grand Funk Railroad.