SiriusXM to Pay Labels $210 Million Over Copyright Battle

"This is a great step forward for all music creators. Music has tremendous value, whether it was made in 1970 or 2015," RIAA chairman says

SiriusXM have agreed to pay record labels $210 million after broadcasting pre-1972 recordings for years without licenses. Credit: Sandro Di Carlo Darsa/Getty

SiriusXM has agreed to pay independent and major record labels $210 million after the satellite radio company broadcasted pre-1972 recordings for years without compensating the labels or the artists. The agreement comes after an October 2014 court decision in which a judge ruled that while copyright law didn't protect songs recorded prior to 1972, SiriusXM couldn't continue to play those tracks without properly getting licenses from all parties involved.

"This is a great step forward for all music creators," Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) chairman and CEO Cary Sherman said in a statement. "Music has tremendous value, whether it was made in 1970 or 2015. We hope others take note of this important agreement and follow SiriusXM's example."

A spokesperson for SiriusXM declined comment.

In a case filed in September 2013 as Capitol Records LLC et al vs SiriusXM Radio Inc, record labels ABKCO Music & Records, Capitol Records, Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings and Warner Music Group all teamed as plaintiffs and filed their suit in California due to the state's artist-friendly interpretation of copyright law. The pro-label ruling in that case came two months after a federal court ruled that Sixties rockers the Turtles were allowed to proceed with a $100 million class-action lawsuit against SiriusXM.

Following the rulings against SiriusXM, the major record labels and the Turtles both took aim at Internet radio giant Pandora, which also failed to compensate for streaming pre-1972 recordings. "It's increasingly clear that SiriusXM, Pandora and other digital music firms who refuse to pay legacy artists and rights holders are on the wrong side of history and the law," Sherman said at the time. "It's time for that to change."

The Turtles' class-action suit against SiriusXM – which was filed in three states: California, New York and Florida – remains unresolved, the New York Times reports. While the "Happy Together" band won important rulings in both New York and California, SiriusXM was the victor in the Florida suit.