Advanced Television

Sirius-XM pays $210m to settle music claims

June 29, 2015

By Chris Forrester

Pay-radio operator Sirius-XM has been facing the music, in more ways than one. A legal action against the company – majority owned by John Malone’s Liberty operation – to pay millions of dollars for the rights to play music recorded prior to 1972.

SoundExchange, a music rights royalty collector, said June 26th that Sirius-XM and its lawyers had agreed to pay $210 million (€188.8m) to settle all outstanding claims from key record companies for accessing the older music tracks.

Sirius-XM had depended on US Federal law which uses February 15th 1972 as the cut-off date for music royalties to be paid. However, many US states used later dates for royalty payment obligations.

Sirius-XM also argued that music copyright laws are antiquated insofar as they require satellite and Internet ‘stations’ to pay royalties, but there is no matching expectation from traditional radio stations.  The subtle difference is based on radio airplay as being ‘promotional’ for the song in question. The radio broadcasters only had to pay copyright royalties to the music’s composer/s.

“While it unfortunately required a lawsuit to make Sirius XM do the right thing, we are pleased that these legacy artists are finally getting the respect — and compensation — they deserve for the use of their music,” Michael Huppe, the president/CEO of SoundExchange, said in a statement.

It is not yet clear where this settlement leaves a Class Action still running and headed by The Turtles (who wrote ‘Happy Together’in 1967).  One legal opinion stated that the various music publishers involved in the claim own some 80 per cent of the music played, and in dispute. The lawyers said they expected The Turtles action to be settled out of the ‘other’ 20 per cent and suggest that a benchmark $52.5 million would probably wipe the slate clean for Sirius-XM.

This particular payment goes to a grouping of music publishers including Capital Records, Sony Music, Warner Music, UMG Recordings and others.

Categories: Articles, Digital Radio, Policy, Regulation