f11photo /
24 September 2014

Turtles victorious in satellite radio dispute

A judge has backed 1960s US rock band The Turtles in its copyright infringement dispute against a satellite radio station.

SiriusXM has been found guilty of copyright infringement for playing songs released before 1972 without paying royalties.

In a summary judgment issued on Monday (September 22), judge Philip Gutierrez ruled in favour of former frontmen Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, who had sued the broadcaster under their stage names Flo and Eddie.

In US law, works that predate 1972 fall outside the federal Copyright Act of 1976. But according to the plaintiffs, who filed a complaint at the Los Angeles Superior Court, the works are protected against unauthorised duplication under California’s civil code.

Judge Gutierrez agreed.

The pair "has the right to possess and use its sound recordings and prevent others from possessing and using them," he wrote.

According to non-profit organisation SoundExchange, which collects and distributes appropriate royalties, pre-1972 songs account for an estimated 10% to 15% of the satellite-radio company's total airplay.

Other acts with songs recorded before 1972 could now also join in the action.

The Turtles had initially claimed the scale of infringement meant they were due $100 million in damages.

A trial to assess how much SiriusXM should be ordered to pay is scheduled for a later date.

The Turtles, who were together from 1965 to 1970, had hits including Happy Together, It Ain't Me Babe and She'd Rather Be With Me.

SiriusXM, which describes itself as “the world’s leading radio broadcaster”, provides news, music, sports and entertainment. It has around 24 million subscribers and its content is available via satellite, online and on smartphones and other connected devices.

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More on this story

6 August 2013   US rock band The Turtles is leading a backlash against a satellite radio station claiming it has infringed copyright on thousands of songs to the tune of $100 million.
3 October 2014   Satellite radio station SiriusXM has said it will appeal against a court ruling that found it guilty of infringing the copyright of certain songs belonging to 1960s rock band The Turtles.
28 May 2015   A US court has ruled that a class action lawsuit concerning royalty payments for songs recorded before 1972 can proceed, in the latest development of a dispute between digital radio station SiriusXM and rock band The Turtles.