Five major record labels have sued Pandora over failing to pay royalties for music recorded before 1972. The same record labels also sued SiriusXM satellite radio in September 2013 over similar issues.
Due to a quirk in federal law, music recorded before 1972 is not protected under US copyright. Those recordings, however, are governed by what the US Copyright Office describes as: “a patchwork of state statutory and common law. States are permitted to continue protection for pre-1972 sound recordings until 2067, at which time all state protection will be preempted by federal law and pre-1972 sound recordings will enter the public domain.”
SoundExchange, a music rights organization, estimates that non-payment for pre-1972 recordings cost artists and labels $60 million in royalties non-payment in 2013 alone.
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