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SiriusXM settles copyright row for $99m

SiriusXM, the satellite subscription radio, is to pay up to $99 million to settle a group of lawsuits over a music copyright issue for recordings made before 1972.

Federal copyright only began to be applied to recordings in 1972, and three years ago members of the 1960s band the Turtles filed lawsuits against SiriusXM for playing its songs without permission, claiming protection under state copyright laws in California, Florida and New York.

The three class-actions have been closely watched in the music industry. The settlement calls for SiriusXM to make two types of payments to the plaintiffs, which include many independent artists and record companies. For its past unlicensed use of pre-1972 recordings, the satellite radio company agreed to pay a minimum of $25 million, with up to $15 million in additional payments depending on whether the Turtles prevail in appeals that are pending in the New York and Florida cases. In addition, SiriusXM agreed to a 10-year licence for recordings by class members, paying a 5.5 per cent royalty rate. According to the filing, that amount could be worth between $45 million and $59 million, depending on projections of SiriusXM’s revenue growth over the next decade.

The payments would apply to the owners of any recordings from before 1972 that have been played by the satellite radio service without permission. It does not include recordings owned by the major record companies, which settled their own suit against SiriusXM last year for $210 million.

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