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Rdio removed as defendant from latest pre-1972 lawsuit

By | Published on Wednesday 28 January 2015


Rdio says that is has been removed as a defendant from a new lawsuit focused on the 1972 issue in US copyright law.

As previously reported, following on from previous litigation pursued by other parties against satellite radio company Sirius and streaming service Pandora, the label side of an American media firm called Zenbu last week sued a stack of digital music services alleging they were all streaming pre-1972 sound recordings it controls without licence.

There has been much debate in the US, where AM/FM radio stations do not to pay royalties to the owners of sound recording copyrights but federal law says satellite and online radio services have to, what the rule is with recordings that pre-date 1972, because US-wide federal law does not apply to records released before that year.

The debate has centred on whether state copyright laws that protect older material, and which don’t specifically mention satellite or online services, give labels a similar right to payment, even though AM/FM stations have never paid royalties for that catalogue either. Some early judgements on the Sirius/Pandora cases last year suggested that, actually, they do.

The new lawsuit accuses an assortment of digital services including Slacker, Songza, iTunes Radio, Grooveshark, Sony Music Unlimited and Rdio.

The specific allegations against each service aren’t clear, though you’d expect that last year’s landmark rulings (which are still being appealed) would only affect streaming services operating under a licence from collective licensing agency SoundExchange, and which had opted to not pay royalties on pre-1972 records. Which means only those services operating Pandora-style interactive radio streaming rather than fully on-demand Spotify style set-ups, which need licenses directly from each record company to play any recordings.

Now, Rdio’s freemium option is of the Pandora model, though nevertheless its inclusion as a defendant on the new lawsuit was surprising. And most surprising, it seems, to Rdio itself, which is damn certain it has no liabilities here.

And seemingly Zenbu’s lawyers have quickly agreed, dismissing their action against this particular streamer. A spokesperson for Rdio told CMU: “We’re pleased the lawsuit was dismissed. Rdio respects copyright and is committed to compensating artists for their creative works and pays royalties for all songs we offer”.