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Apple's iTunes Radio, Beats, and Others Hit With Unpaid Royalty Suits Over Pre-1972 Music

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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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Following a lengthy lawsuit that pitted Sirius XM Radio against members of classic rock band The Turtles in a fight over royalties for music recordings made before 1972, new class action lawsuits have been filed against Apple, Sony, Google, and Rdio over their streaming music services (via The Recorder). As noted by Law360, Beats Music has also been hit with a suit.

According to the suits, filed yesterday by Zenbu Magazines Inc., streaming services like iTunes Radio, Beats, and Google Play Music have been making money off of pre-1972 music recordings without paying any royalties to the owners of the original recordings.

Zenbu owns the copyrights to many songs in question and is represented by The Law Office of Jack Fitzgerald in San Diego. The lawsuit seeks to create a certified "class of all owners of recordings made before February 15, 1972, whose recordings appear on streaming services."
While musical compositions have been protected under U.S. copyright law since 1831, sound recordings were only added to the federal copyright act in 1972. That's meant that the holders of copyrights to pre-1972 compositions--largely music publishers--have been paid royalties for public performances while those holding the copyrights to recordings--largely record labels--have not.
As noted by The Recorder, last year a judge in Los Angeles decided to extend ownership rights for pre-1972 recordings to include public performances. Similarly, in that case of Sirius XM versus owners of the sound recordings made by The Turtles in the 1960s, U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez ruled against Sirius.

The lawsuits come at a time when Apple is working behind the scenes for an upcoming relaunch of the Beats Music streaming service, rumored to include integration into iTunes and iOS in general. "The streaming services don't have a good idea of what their total liability is going to be," noted Santa Clara law professor Tyler Ochoa, with the lawsuits against the numerous streaming music services "inevitable", following the Sirius XM case.

Due to the growing popularity of streaming services worldwide, Ochoa sees some of the companies perhaps pulling those pre-1972 songs to avoid further liability, with record labels falling in line with their own lawsuits against the services for better royalty deals.

Article Link: Apple's iTunes Radio, Beats, and Others Hit With Unpaid Royalty Suits Over Pre-1972 Music
 

TsunamiTheClown

macrumors 6502a
Apr 28, 2011
571
12
Fiery+Cross+Reef
Not sure i really understand what's going on here.

It seems like there are two different things being said here. So do you have to pay royalties for on content you stream that was produced before 1972 or not? Is that the basic legal question here or am I missing something?
 

solamar

macrumors regular
Dec 30, 2008
179
72
Seems confusing to say the least..

First, how do they know whats been streamed since it's probably not been well tracked.. so how do you determine damages.

Second, Music prior to 1972, ummm who's alive still is probably still small.. so the question is, who has 'rights'? and since when are those rights indefinite? :rolleyes:

I mean seriously, common.. Who's benefiting here? a new form of 'patent troll' moving into the 'copyright' business that bought rights and really has NO intrinsic or artistic interest in protecting rights, just making money off of someone else work?:confused:

Thats what I'm seeing here..
 

Yvan256

macrumors 603
Jul 5, 2004
5,049
927
Canada
Copyrights

The original length of copyright in the United States was 14 years, and it had to be explicitly applied for. If the author wished, they could apply for a second 14‑year monopoly grant, but after that the work entered the public domain, so it could be used and built upon by others.

Now it's been extended so many times that copyrights now last almost as much as the average life span in modern countries and the fact that works should be public domain after the copyright period is over is something that most people don't even know about.
 

ArtOfWarfare

macrumors G3
Nov 26, 2007
8,937
4,786
The original length of copyright in the United States was 14 years, and it had to be explicitly applied for. If the author wished, they could apply for a second 14‑year monopoly grant, but after that the work entered the public domain, so it could be used and built upon by others.

Now it's been extended so many times that copyrights now last almost as much as the average life span in modern countries and the fact that works should be public domain after the copyright period is over is something that most people don't even know about.

I'm fine with it taking 70 years for books to enter public domain.
And there's nothing stopping you from having your works enter the public domain earlier than that (some early games come to mind, such as Doom).

My thoughts about music made before 1972, though, is that recording equipment was pretty horrible. I can't stand listening to anything recorded before the mid 80's, and even as late as '02 some artists were still using horrible equipment to record. It's not the composition or ability that I dislike - I'm fine with hearing songs composed tens or hundreds of years ago but recorded (most likely, re-recorded or remastered) recently, but the static and distortion on records and tapes, and the compression on CDs, was awful.
 
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lars666

macrumors 65816
Jul 13, 2008
1,072
1,010
My thoughts about music made before 1972, though, is that recording equipment was pretty horrible. I can't stand listening to anything recorded before the mid 80's, and even as late as '02 some artists were still using horrible equipment to record.

Are you serious? You should listen to some gold old Blue Note recordings, for starters, or Muddy Waters' simply INCREDIBLE sounding album "The Folk Singer" (with a nice equipment it sounds as if he's playing next to you in your living room), and discover how they put almost everything recorded to day to shame, especially in times of the loudness war.
 

gjveltink

macrumors newbie
Oct 8, 2013
5
4
I would be sad, if music before 1972 would be left out in the future!
But that would be hard to imagine: e.g. the entire Beatles catalogue!

My thoughts about music made before 1972, though, is that recording equipment was pretty horrible. I can't stand listening to anything recorded before the mid 80's, and even as late as '02 some artists were still using horrible equipment to record.

???
That's all a very personal opinion.

Personally, I have a very hard time listening to modern day, all electronic music, especially on headphones. Horrible, at least to my ears!
I'd prefer lo-fi sixties recordings of real instruments with tape hiss and all, any time.
 

sailmac

macrumors 6502
Jan 15, 2008
316
77
If they have to pay royalties moving forward I think the streaming service providers will be able to adjust and keep moving along.

If they have to pay royalties retroactively I think it will be messy and some of the providers will emerge from the mess better than others.

I have approximately 13,000 music tracks in my library. Roughly 8% are 1972 or earlier. A few of my all-time favorites are from that era.

If it came to be that older tracks were no longer streamed (lately I'm mostly using iTunes Radio) it wouldn't ruin the experience, but I do think I would notice the absence of certain familiar and popular tracks.

I anticipate money will change hands and this will eventually get sorted out.
 

Bregalad

macrumors 6502
Jul 22, 2002
414
54
Vancouver
Copyright is way too long

The original length of copyright in the United States was 14 years, and it had to be explicitly applied for. If the author wished, they could apply for a second 14‑year monopoly grant, but after that the work entered the public domain, so it could be used and built upon by others.

Now it's been extended so many times that copyrights now last almost as much as the average life span in modern countries and the fact that works should be public domain after the copyright period is over is something that most people don't even know about.

In Canada copyright is now life of the author plus 50 years.
In the UK and USA it's life plus 70.

The USA has rules around date of publication that bestow copyright for 95 or 120 years and those lengths have been growing as fast as time has passed. Projecting forward corporate assets like movies will likely receive infinite copyright protection.

I think copyright should be based solely on public release. If you never make it public then it's the property of you and your heirs forever. The moment you exhibit or sell your work the clock starts ticking and you've got X years to make something from it. Whether you're alive or dead when that X years is up should be irrelevant.

I think X should be approximately 40 years, but I'm willing to listen to reasons why it should be longer/shorter.
 

ptb42

macrumors 6502a
Oct 14, 2011
703
184
The USA has rules around date of publication that bestow copyright for 95 or 120 years and those lengths have been growing as fast as time has passed. Projecting forward corporate assets like movies will likely receive infinite copyright protection.

It keeps growing, because Disney has enough Congressmen in their pocket.

Copyright terms always seem to get extended, just before their copyright on Mickey Mouse is about to expire.

How Mickey Mouse Keeps Changing Copyright Law

 

wikiverse

macrumors 6502a
Sep 13, 2012
568
403
In Canada copyright is now life of the author plus 50 years.
In the UK and USA it's life plus 70.

The USA has rules around date of publication that bestow copyright for 95 or 120 years and those lengths have been growing as fast as time has passed. Projecting forward corporate assets like movies will likely receive infinite copyright protection.

I think copyright should be based solely on public release. If you never make it public then it's the property of you and your heirs forever. The moment you exhibit or sell your work the clock starts ticking and you've got X years to make something from it. Whether you're alive or dead when that X years is up should be irrelevant.

I think X should be approximately 40 years, but I'm willing to listen to reasons why it should be longer/shorter.

Copyright should last for the lifespan of the author... At least.

When it is in the 'public domain' people will then start using it to make a profit, without returning anything back to the person that created it. It's only fair that as long as they're alive they should receive some recognition for their work.

The exception to this would by movies, which have dozens of investors and creators and cost tens of millions of dollars to make. Then a specific period (say, 50 years) should be in effect. Given that it takes most films 20+ years to make a profit (if they ever do), that gives them a reasonable period to make money and would likely cover the lifespan of most of the creators.
 

BSben

macrumors 65816
May 16, 2012
1,090
571
UK
This should be a cheap one for Apple, as they only offer the service in two countries, financed by iTunes Match subscribers from around the globe. As a subscriber who doesn't get iTunes radio despite paying the same as those in the US and Australia, I somehow wish Apple will have to cough up some cash for it ;)
 

dnball

macrumors newbie
Jan 23, 2015
1
0
Common law protection for pre-1972 recordings

Federal copyright law did not include sound recordings within the definition of "works of authorship" subject to copyright until the Sound Recording Act of 1971.

All sound recordings created before February 15, 1972 were protected, if at all, under the state law where the sound recording was recorded. Most of the commercially successful ones were recorded in California. So the issue is how California's law addresses those recordings.

Pandora makes a VERY persuasive argument that that law does not require Pandora and other webcasters to pay licensing fees to those who own those pre-1972 sound recordings. See https://www.scribd.com/doc/250733062/Flo-Eddie-v-Pandora-Pandora-Anti-SLAPP-Motion
 

chirpie

macrumors 6502a
Jul 23, 2010
643
179
I'm fine with hearing songs composed tens or hundreds of years ago but recorded (most likely, re-recorded or remastered) recently, but the static and distortion on records and tapes, and the compression on CDs, was awful.

I hate to dogpile, but in fact a lot of those so-called recordings from the earlier days of CDs and back into the 70's are flat out superior to many the recordings we have now, with a lot of 'remasters' actually sounding worse than the originals.

Heck, it's odd you mention compression as an example considering the dynamic compression of a lot of recordings nowadays is horrific compared to more even tempered recordings of yester-year. A lot of recordings now sound like mono as a result.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Gmex_4hreQ
 
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Googlyhead

macrumors 6502
Apr 19, 2010
429
221
Copyright should last for the lifespan of the author... At least.
I'd have to disagree. Pretty much all experience of long term copyright application is simply abuse and profiteering by large corporations without contributing anything further or worthwhile for the money they obtain.

And the second part of the same argument being regarding the reimbursement of the author(s) for their work; if your creation hasn't earned it's keep within a mere couple of years, this isn't a good sign. Looking at it as an investment, if it pays out for 5-10 years, you're doing pretty well. How long do you expect a story (for example) to be relevant for?
A couple of decades, fine. Reward gives incentive. Set up for life and beyond? Hmmm.

When it is in the 'public domain' people will then start using it to make a profit, without returning anything back to the person that created it. It's only fair that as long as they're alive they should receive some recognition for their work.
Recognition is fair enough. But public domain or corporate (as in the article), there needs to be a limit on profiteering. I'm seeing this mostly as a corporation has acquired some rights and now wants to retrospectively make as much money as they can. For themselves of course. None of the original authors or performers will have any say or get anything.

The exception to this would by movies, which have dozens of investors and creators and cost tens of millions of dollars to make. Then a specific period (say, 50 years) should be in effect. Given that it takes most films 20+ years to make a profit (if they ever do), that gives them a reasonable period to make money and would likely cover the lifespan of most of the creators.
This could also be reversed as a reason to apply a fixed limit. Has it really become acceptable to justify "spend x million on a movie, we can keep it on our books as an asset indefinitely." There was a time when a studio would produce a fairly constant number of movies per year, expecting some to make a loss, some to break even or do well, and the occasional success that generates the profit for that year, and kickstarts the next.
Now it's all safe investments, and he who does with the most wins.
 
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wikiverse

macrumors 6502a
Sep 13, 2012
568
403
Did you just arrive from the 1960's? If only it were that short. We're up to what, author's life + 70 or 95 years now?

Yes, and the person I was replying to said that copyright should only last for 10 years.

If a person creates and original work, then they own it. They should continue to own it until they die, then it should become public domain.
 
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