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SiriusXM to Pay Record Companies $210 Million for Use of Pre-1972 Recordings in Legal Settlement

Satellite radio broadcaster must now pay for use of popular recordings by bands including The Beatles and The Beach Boys

Sirius XM Holdings Inc. will pay $210 million in a legal settlement for the use of pre-1972 recordings owned by several major and independent record labels.

The satellite radio broadcaster will pay the settlment to plaintiffs ABKCO Music & Records, Capitol Records, Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings, and Warner Music Group.

“This is a great step forward for all music creators,” Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) chairman and CEO Cary Sherman said in a statement. “Music has tremendous value, whether it was made in 1970 or 2015. We hope others take note of this important agreement and follow Sirius XM’s example.”

The recordings in question include popular works by The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones, among many others. The suit claimed that SiriusXM publicly performs thousands of the plantiffs’ pre-72 recordings daily, to millions of subscribers.

The filing pointed out that SiriusXM does pay for post-1972 recordings. But with a number of stations that exclusively use the so-called “pre-72” recordings, including SiriusXM’s ’40s, ’50s and ’60s channels, the record companies demand restitution from the company that they say “profits handsomely (in the tens of millions of dollars).”

Why 1972? That year, the United States Copyright Act was amended to add “sound recordings” to the list of protected works under federal copyright law. The suit was filed in California because in 1969, California courts had previously recognized the common law property rights, and in 1982, it amended its Civil Code to provide statutory protection for Pre-72 Recordings.