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Flo & Eddie settle with Sirius in Californian pre-1972 royalties battle

By | Published on Tuesday 15 November 2016

Flo & Eddie

So, the good old pre-1972 debate, remember that? Flo & Eddie, as former members of 1960s group The Turtles, went to court insisting that satellite radio service Sirius XM should be paying them royalties whenever it played their old records, and the duo won.

Sirius had argued that the specific law in the US that says that satellite and online radio services – but not AM/FM radio stations – must pay royalties to record labels and recording artists stems from federal law in America. And federal copyright law only protects sound recordings released since 1972.

Older sound recordings are protected by state law in the US, which doesn’t specifically talk about satellite and online radio. Therefore, given AM/FM radio stations had never paid royalties on pre-1972 recordings, and given state laws made no distinction between different kinds of radio services, Sirius shouldn’t have to pay royalties either, said the broadcaster.

Which might seem logical, but not so said the Californian courts, which reckoned there probably was a performing right for sound recordings under state law, meaning Sirius was liable to pay royalties to labels and artists for pre-1972 tracks. Even though that meant AM/FM stations technically were too yet never had done.

On the back of that ruling, the major record companies reached settlements with both Sirius and Pandora over all the pre-1972 tunes they had been playing without paying royalties. But Flo & Eddie, whose legal efforts had set the all-important precedent here, were not part of those settlements. To that end, the duo were set to imminently return to court for a hearing on how big a cheque Sirius would have to write the musicians.

However, the satellite broadcaster has now reached an out of court settlement with the one time Turtles. Terms are not known, but legal reps for both parties have alerted the court that a deal has been done and that they now seek the judge’s approval of that arrangement.

Although that brings to an end legal wranglings in California, Flo & Eddie went legal in two other states – New York and Florida – and those cases are still ongoing. But, as The Hollywood Reporter notes, the settlement in the Californian case means the lawyer for Sirius, Daniel Petrocelli, can focus his efforts on the other big case he’s working on just now, repping President-Elect Donald Trump in the Trump University litigation.

Though Trump is trying to get that case postponed anyway, so he has time to get on with the business of appointing a future government for the United States Of America. And possibly to allow time to write his draft ‘No Lawsuits Against Ventures With University In Their Name Act’ for his Republican pals to pass in Congress.