The Turtles File Massive Class Action Lawsuit Against Sirius XM

Royalties are a tricky topic. The general rule of thumb is this: if you were involved in the production of a commercial, episode of TV, song, or book, then you’ll likely be paid royalties whenever those products are shared. Often, those royalties are for life. If that episode of TV airs, then you get paid. If a book you wrote is purchased, then you get paid. However, it’s more complicated for that. The band “The Turtles” recently lost a lawsuit against Sirius XM because Sirius had no licenses and paid no royalties.

Sirius XM had played a song of the band’s that had been recorded before 1972. The Turtles proceeded to file a massive class action lawsuit in Florida, California, and New York on behalf of all artists whose songs recorded before 1972 had been played by Sirius XM. Sirius XM proceeded to pay a settlement of $25 million to the class. A lawyer can only do so much.

That settlement is actually pretty low, considering the scope of the case. Federal Judge Darrin Gayles first settled the case in favor of The Turtles, but members of the band, Flo & Eddie, didn’t stop there. The case went before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which then requested additional information so they could make a final ruling.

A 1995 federal law stated that licenses must be obtained for songs recorded from the artists themselves for songs recorded after 1972. Flo & Eddie presented their case based on precedent set forth by a long forgotten 1943 case. Because the case was irrelevant in face of the 1995 law, the justices dismissed it as evidence and the previous ruling was reversed to instead favor Sirius XM.

Even though this case will provide new precedent, copyright still expires after a time. For certain types of works, the rule of thumb is the life of an author plus seventy years when a work was published after 1977. This prevents lawsuits like the aforementioned.

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