SiriusXM received a bit of positive news recently when a Judge hearing the lawsuit vs. SoundExchange ruled that the royalty matter relating to pre-1972 music should be determined by the CRB royalty board instead of in Federal Court. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon , in his ruling this past Tuesday stated that the issue is a matter of jurisdiction and that it should be handled by CRB under the primary jurisdiction doctrine. The impact here could have impact on the Flo and Eddie case, which are suing for royalties of their work, much of which is pre 1972.
SiriusXM pays SoundExchange royalties based on revenue, but backs out revenue generated from pre-1972 music because it is not covered under federal law.
“Unfortunately for SoundExchange, the gross revenue exclusions are ambiguous and do not, on their face, make clear whether Sirius XM's approaches were permissible under the regulations,” he wrote.
“The technical and policy expertise of the CRB makes referral to that body appropriate. These are issues which, under a regulatory scheme, have been placed within the special competence of an administrative body.”
While the dispute certainly is not over, there is a direction for a decision to be made. It is indeed crystal clear that Federal law does not cover the music in question. In the case of Flo and Eddie, who had the popular song "Happy Together" the case is in state court. States have differeing laws regarding copyright law.
As most readers are aware, there is no royalty payment made by AM and FM radio, under the antiquated concept that radio airplay helps promote record sales. Royalties have been at issue for years now and reform is needed to give all parties their fair shake and a level playing field.