Sirius XM Settles Suit Over Oldies Music

Features Dow Jones Newswires

Sirius XM Holdings Inc. on Friday has agreed to pay $210 million to settle a case with major record labels over oldies music the company has aired.

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According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the settlement resolves past claims to the satellite-radio broadcaster's use of pre-1972 tunes and enables it to broadcast the music through the end of 2017.

The settlement also gives Sirius the right to enter into license agreements with record companies from 2018 through 2022.

Sirius XM settled with the world's three biggest music companies-- Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group, Sony Corp.'s Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group, owned by billionaire Len Blavatnik's Access Industries Inc. The agreement included ABKCO Music & Records Inc., which controls the rights to some Rolling Stones music and that by other classic artists.

The company said in the filing that the agreement applies to 80% of the pre-1972 recordings Sirius has used on a few of its 70-plus music channels.

Not settled is a suit brought last year by founders of the '60s band the Turtles.

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The suits spotlight a quirk in copyright law: There is little explicit protection for older music because sound recordings weren't granted federal copyright protection until 1972. Instead, older recordings are protected under a patchwork of state laws.

Sirius hadn't paid to use those songs, even though such oldies account for an estimated 10% to 15% of the satellite-radio company's total airplay, according to SoundExchange Inc., which collects certain royalties on behalf of record companies.

A spokesman for Sirius declined to comment beyond the company's regulatory filing.

Pandora Media Inc. has faced similar lawsuits brought by the music industry and from the Turtles for playing pre-1972 music. A spokesman for the Internet-radio giant said in an email: "We are confident in Pandora's legal position on this issue." He added that pre-1972 recordings account for just 5% of Pandora's total spins.

The Recording Industry Association of America--the trade group for the big companies involved in the settlement--called the accord a "step forward for music creators" and said it hopes "others take note of this important agreement and follow Sirius XM's example."