Yesterday, the U.S. District Court of Central California ruled in favor of Flo & Eddie, Inc., allowing for a class action lawsuit to proceed against Sirius XM. Flo & Eddie—original members of The Turtles—had already achieved a victory in their initial lawsuit against Sirius XM back in 2014. The latest ruling opens up the possibility of restitution for any artist whose music was recorded before February, 15 1972 and is played by the satellite radio giant. For Sirius XM, this could mean a great deal of money spent on appeals or settlements. We wonder whether the potential expense exceeds what they’d have paid if they hadn’t stopped compensating for pre-’72s.
As Judge Philip Gutierrez writes in his decision, “given SiriusXM’s aggressive litigation tactics … and its decision to continue to perform pre-1972 recordings without authorization, it may be cost-prohibitive for owners with smaller value claims to pursue their claims against SiriusXM in this environment.” We think it’s a positive when individual creators’ rights are recognized alongside those of the big media companies. A closer examination of the case, however, indicates that Flo & Eddie sued as copyright owners, not performers. We are unclear on what this might mean for the larger community of musicians who don’t own their copyrights but should be compensated for digital performances nonetheless.