Pandora reached a financial settlement this week with some major record labels that will allow the Internet radio service to use their pre-1972 recordings.
The $90 million agreement, reached with ABKCO Music & Records, Capitol Records, Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings and Warner Music Group, settles a lawsuit filed by the labels last year in New York seeking payment of recording royalties.
The case highlights the complexity of performance copyright issues and the lack of federal copyright protection for music recorded prior to 1972. In some cases those songs are protected under common law in certain states, copyright experts say.
“Pandora is excited to have found resolution with these record labels,” said Brian McAndrews, chief executive officer at Pandora, in a company statement. “Together we share a common objective to grow the music industry and support artists. We pursued this settlement in order to move the conversation forward and continue to foster a better, collaborative relationship with the labels.”
Pandora has been sued on several occasions over its use of older songs recorded prior to 1972. Members of the 1960s band The Turtles sued them in 2014 – it was known as the “Flo and Eddie” suit – over failure to pay royalties, and most recently this week in New Jersey when Arthur and Barbara Sheridan filed a fresh batch of lawsuits making similar claims against it along with iHeartMedia and Sirius XM.
The same group of record labels involved in the Pandora agreement earlier this year settled a lawsuit against Sirius/XM when the satcaster agreed to pay $210 million settlement to cover performance rights to pre-1972 music. That agreement gave Sirius XM rights to use the music through Dec. 31, 2017, according to a Sirius XM press release at the time.