Sirius XM Hit Again Over Pre-1972 Recordings
from the convinced-by-the-other-ruling dept
A few weeks ago, we wrote about how Sirius XM had lost its case concerning the public performance rights over pre-1972 sound recordings by the band The Turtles. As we noted, this ruling effectively upset decades of consensus about public performance rights for pre-1972 works. When that ruling came out, we noted that the judge, in a nearly identical case brought by the RIAA, appeared to be leaning in the opposite direction. It appears that the judge, Mary Strobel, read the other ruling and found it convincing enough to lean back in the other direction. While not a final determination in the case, Strobel has issued a ruling (pdf) that makes it pretty clear that Sirius XM is likely to lose, based on her agreement with that other ruling.
Having considered the additional authority, the papers submitted and arguments of counsel, the court is persuaded that it should change its tentative ruling.
The ruling itself is more of an essay of “on the one hand, on the other hand” arguments, rather than a typical judicial ruling (in many ways making it more readable), with the judge more or less suggesting that she’s not entirely comfortable with this outcome, but that based on the plain language of California’s state copyright law, this is the best way to read the law.
Of course, the real mess here is because of the different treatment of pre-1972 recordings. Congress should have fixed this years ago by just making pre-1972 recordings subject to federal copyright law. Except… the recording industry has actually fought hard against this. The hypocrisy here is huge. While the recording industry has fought so hard against making pre-1972 sound recordings subject to federal copyright laws, now they suddenly want aspects of federal copyright law (like public performance rights which did not exist under previous laws) to apply to those very same works. If Congress made it so those works were under federal copyright, there wouldn’t be an issue and all these works would be treated identically. But the truth is that the RIAA wants to keep these works out of federal copyright law to use them as a weapon against internet innovation. With rulings like these, it can hold companies like Pandora hostage, since those works wouldn’t be subject to compulsory rates. As always, it’s all about the RIAA seeking to hold back innovative services unless they’ll go bankrupt in paying the RIAA.