Technology

Court orders royalties for classic tunes

A district court this week ruled in favor of musicians in a copyright dispute with Sirius XM, potentially prompting a shift in the way musicians are paid for their songs.

This week, the District Court of Central California ruled that the satellite radio giant had to pay royalties to members of the Turtles, a band most famous for their hit song “Happy Together,” for more than a dozen songs that it played.

Currently, performers of songs recorded before 1972 are not covered under a federal copyright law, and musicians do not receive royalties when their songs are played. A series of state laws covers songs before 1972.

The new ruling could spark a change, though, and was cheered by supporters of reforming the current system.

“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,” said Michael Huppe, president of the royalties organization SoundExchange. 

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,” he added.

A Sirius XM representative declined to comment on the ruling.

Earlier this year, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and others introduced the Respecting Senior Performers as Essential Cultural Treasures (RESPECT) Act, which would clarify that satellite and Internet radio stations need to pay royalties to musicians regardless of when theirs song was recorded.

— Updated at 11:01 a.m.

Tags Royalties Sirius XM Radio

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