Sirius XM Settles Suit Over Oldies Music

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.

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.

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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.

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."