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Pandora Sued By Sony, Warner Over Copyright Infringement

On Thursday, Sony, Warner Bros, and Universal filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan against Pandora, claiming that the streaming music service is using recordings of older songs without permission.

In their lawsuit, the Big Three music companies argue that Pandora is violating New York State's own common-law copyright protections by using recordings of older songs without permission. Thus these companies believe that Pandora must not only have permission to play those songs, but to cough up the appropriate licensing fees.

"This case presents a classic attempt by Pandora to reap where it has not sown," the labels say in the suit. "Pandora appropriates plaintiffs' valuable and unique property, violates New York law, and engages in common law copyright infringement and misappropriation and unfair competition."

As explained by the New York Times, federal copyright law dictates that online and satellite radio must get licenses to use recordings that were made after the February 15, 1972 date. Payments are made in the "hundreds of millions" to SoundExchange, a branch of the RIAA. Songs that were recorded before 1972 aren't covered under federal copyright protection, but instead are covered by "a patchwork" of state laws.

Pandora has more than 70 million regular users, followed by Sirius XM, which has around 26 million subscribers. These two popular music listening services contributed to most of the $656 million in performance royalties collected by SoundExchange in 2013, the paper reports.

Currently, it's unclear if Pandora, along with Sirius XM, will be made to license the older music. As the New York Times points out, the current wave of lawsuits reflects the current mess the music industry is in, and could shape how the industry charges for music playback.

"Just because Buddy and the other '50s musicians recorded songs before 1972 doesn't mean their songs have no value," said the widow of Buddy Holly via the RIAA. "These companies' failure to pay the rock 'n' roll pioneers is an injustice and it needs to change."

  • daekar
    Who buys music anymore?

    And isn't there a time limit on copyrights? Copyrights were not created so huge conglomerates could accumulate the legal right to control the collective accomplishments of mankind.

    The RIAA gets no sympathy from me. If the entire music industry collected tomorrow leaving only the small Indy companies left I'd be tickled to death.
    Reply
  • Camikazi
    Who buys music anymore?

    And isn't there a time limit on copyrights? Copyrights were not created so huge conglomerates could accumulate the legal right to control the collective accomplishments of mankind.

    The RIAA gets no sympathy from me. If the entire music industry collected tomorrow leaving only the small Indy companies left I'd be tickled to death.
    Believe copyrights can last from 95 years to the life of the author or more depending on how it was made. In other words they last practically forever.
    Reply
  • smeghead4269
    Who buys music anymore?

    If I had a dime for every time I've heard that question...

    Justin Timberlake sold 2.43 million copies of "20/20", which was the best selling album of 2013. So the answer to your question (and several "who buys _____ anymore" questions for that matter) is millions of people around the world. Yes, music sales are declining and will likely continue to do so, but just because you don't buy music anymore doesn't mean no one does.
    Reply
  • Martell1977
    The RIAA shot themselves in the foot long ago and now have no idea what they are doing. I can't even count how many times back in high school that I would hear a good song or two on the radio and go buy the CD, only to find that those were the only good songs and the rest were filler garbage. Or that the version I heard was a radio edit and was far superior to the album version.
    Then Napster came out, then others and they started suing their customers. Once people could buy singles, I know many people that would download the songs from an album, listen to them all and buy only the ones that actually liked. But that meant higher sales but less money as people weren't forced to pay for all the garbage.
    The families of the classic music stars got millions for the music over the years and IMO there should be a point where, unless used for commercial purposes (i.e. in advertisements, movies) should be open for free usage. If someone decides to buy a copy, great, but there should be a cut-off point.
    Reply
  • Spectre694
    This is starting to get stupid again. It is like napster all over again.
    Reply
  • oxiide
    Who buys music anymore?

    And isn't there a time limit on copyrights? Copyrights were not created so huge conglomerates could accumulate the legal right to control the collective accomplishments of mankind.

    The RIAA gets no sympathy from me. If the entire music industry collected tomorrow leaving only the small Indy companies left I'd be tickled to death.
    Believe copyrights can last from 95 years to the life of the author or more depending on how it was made. In other words they last practically forever.

    Basically yeah, though I believe that its something like the creator's lifetime + 50 years. The courts are often very generous to the copyright holder in renewing the copyright, though, as Disney could certainly attest to.
    Reply
  • knowom
    Who buys music anymore?

    And isn't there a time limit on copyrights? Copyrights were not created so huge conglomerates could accumulate the legal right to control the collective accomplishments of mankind.

    The RIAA gets no sympathy from me. If the entire music industry collected tomorrow leaving only the small Indy companies left I'd be tickled to death.
    Neither were patents, but it's in the same mess system as Copyrights system is in.
    Reply
  • CaptainTom
    Who buys music anymore?

    If I had a dime for every time I've heard that question...

    Justin Timberlake sold 2.43 million copies of "20/20", which was the best selling album of 2013. So the answer to your question (and several "who buys _____ anymore" questions for that matter) is millions of people around the world. Yes, music sales are declining and will likely continue to do so, but just because you don't buy music anymore doesn't mean no one does.

    AMEN! Some of us are willing to pay people for their work.
    Reply
  • ddpruitt
    Doesn't that mean that the RIAA puppet SoundExchange is going to refund Pandora for royalties the should have never paid to begin with?

    This is why I have no problem downloading music from huge artists and why I buy directly from smaller artists. It's in the RIAAs best interest to keep the system obfuscated so that no one can tell how much they're really raking in.
    Reply
  • rwinches
    Oh please, stop with the holier than thou crap. Plenty of DCs and DLs are being sold. Plenty of movie tickets sold (at high prices) movies purchased and rented.

    Remember mix tapes?
    Remember borrowing or lending tapes or CDs, so you could have a copy of a song or album?
    Remember borrowing a VCR or DVD to watch a movie.
    Remember how much is spent on video rentals, (and now streaming).
    That has been going on for decades and the music industry is still here and artists are still making millions.
    Not all income is from music there is tons to be made in merchandising, just look at KISS.

    You can not forget that consumers in each demographic only have just so much to spend on entertainment be it movies, movies on DVDs, movie rentals DVD or Streamed, music live, music on CDs or DLed.

    So since the amount is finite then the claim that a borrowed copy of a track whether physically or electronically shared does not represent a loss of income in the "Billions", especially when you consider how often is that copy played or viewed as compared to how long it sits on a drive or shelf.

    This is just greed plain and simple. Just bean counters and lawyers justifying their salaries.

    It all started with VCRs when tapes cost $69 for a movie cause any lower would hurt the industry and Recording VCRs were going to kill the industry (even though less that one third actually recorded anything).

    Then it was CDs that were going to kill the industry and their introduction was delayed even though you needed four CD and special setup to view movies of which only a handful were available, and CD recording drives were expensive.

    Then it was DVDs were going to destroy the industry.

    Now its streaming music and movies.

    The Sky is Falling, The Sky is Falling.
    Reply