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California court approves class action copyright in case

Members of the 1960s musical group the Turtles won another victory on May 27 in their landmark copyright infringement case against the satellite radio company Sirius XM. The case centers around royalties on songs recorded prior to Feb. 15, 1972. California law offers protection to the work of performance artists that was recorded before this date, while federal law does not. The plaintiff, a company controlled by two of the band's founders, is pursuing similar litigation in New York and Florida seeking approximately $100 million in damages.

The copyright infringment case has attracted widespread interest because of a changing music industry landscape. More consumers are downloading music from the Internet or listening to it on digital delivery systems like satellite radio. This has led to a sharp decline in the number of records sold, and both artists and their labels now rely heavily on the royalties they receive from digital music providers. However, many of these providers pay no royalties at all on music recorded before 1972.

Attorneys representing Sirius XM advocated against class action certification being granted. They said that it would be difficult to determine the amount of damages that should be paid to each member of the class, but the judge was unswayed by these arguments. The class action ruling is the second major setback for Sirius XM. The New York-based company was dealt a blow in September 2014 when a U.S. district court ruled that California law required it to pay royalties on the Turtles 1960s hits.

Intellectual property is often a vital business asset, but protecting it can involve protracted and costly legal actions. An experienced business law attorney could offer business owners advice regarding proactive strategies designed to prevent intellectual property infringement.

Source: Reuters, "Sirius XM to face class action in Turtles copyright suit", Andrew Chung, mMay 27, 2015

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