Judge OKs Appeal In Sirius Case

A federal judge has ruled SiriusXM can appeal a ruling that would have required the company to pay bands like the Turtles sound recording rights for songs recorded before 1972.

Flo & Eddie of The Turtles filed suit against Sirius in 2013 claiming the service had infringed the group’s copyrights by playing pre-1972 music like “Happy Together” and “It Ain’t Me Babe” without seeking authorization or paying royalties.

Their suit sought $100 million in damages. Judge Colleen McMahon of United States District Court in Manhattan initially sided with the band, writing that, “in short, general principles of common law copyright dictate that public performance rights in pre-1972 sound recordings do exist.”

But McMahon has apparently had a change of heart, and told SiriusXM in court it could appeal the matter. “There is indeed a critically important controlling question of law in this case. If the Court’s holding that they do have such a right is incorrect, then significant portions of this lawsuit — including the public performance copyright infringement and unfair competition claims — will have to be dismissed,” McMahon wrote in court documents.

The news could bring some temporary relief to not just digital media companies like SiriusXM, but clubs, radio stations, restaurants and sports arenas. Since federal law surrounding music before 1972 is unclear, state cases like this one have been viewed as having a massive effect on the interpretation of copyright laws.