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CBS to Fight Pre-1972 Music Royalty Suit

Remastered versus original vinyl is the question

CBS Radio is fighting back against a lawsuit brought by ABS Entertainment in a California court that seeks royalties from the broadcaster for the pre-1972 music it plays and streams.

The case is one in a series of lawsuits targeting CBS Radio and others that highlight the complexity of performance copyright issues.

There was no federal copyright protection for sound recordings until Feb. 15, 1972. Prior to that, sound recordings were protected under a patchwork of state laws. ABS, which owns the sound recordings of Al Green, Ann Peebles and others, claims in its suit that CBS is violating California law every time it plays a pre-1972 song.

Court documents show CBS denies the allegations and has asked the court to dismiss the case based on the argument that it plays digitally remastered versions of pre-1972 songs and not the original recordings.

“Contrary to the allegations, CBS’s records show for the last four years CBS did not publicly perform any of ABS’ pre-1972 recordings. CBS does not play vinyl recordings,” CBS responded in a court filing.

CBS also cites a court case in which reissued sound recordings and remastered sound recordings are protected as new and separate works from the originals.

ABS filed a class action suit against CBS Radio, Cumulus Media and iHeartMedia in August seeking monetary damages and royalties going forward.Currently, pre-1972 music copyright suits exist against broadcasters in New York, California, New Jersey, Illinois and Georgia. Legal observers indicate there is a chance the cases could be consolidated.

CBS Radio, iHeartMedia and Cumulus have all declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.

Sirius XM and Pandora recently reached financial settlements with a consortium of record labels for the pre-1972 songs the satcaster and Internet music service play.

Old Music Brings New Headaches