An Illinois couple who owned several recording companies specializing in doo-wop, jazz, and rhythm and blues have filed suit against the major satellite and Internet radio companies over their playing of pre-1972 songs. It’s the third lawsuit that highlights how the patchwork of state copyright laws over older music is putting a drag on Internet radio—sound recordings made before 1972 aren’t protected by federal copyright but are protected by many states.
On Monday, Arthur and Barbara Sheridan filed two lawsuits in New Jersey federal court: one against Pandora and Sirius XM (PDF) and another against iHeartMedia (PDF), the parent company of online music service iHeartRadio. Their lawsuits seek class action status, looking to represent owners of pre-1972 songs. The companies have derived “significant benefits,” including “millions of dollars in annual revenue,” by playing those songs without permission, the suit alleges.
“The Pre-1972 Recordings, when created, were the novel product of mental labor embodied in material form,” the complaint against Sirius and Pandora states. “Plaintiffs and the Misappropriation Class thus have property rights in them as recognized by New Jersey common law.”