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Oldies but goodies? Pandora sued for copyright infringement

Many of you are probably familiar with Pandora, the popular Internet radio site. Pandora allows users to listen to a variety of songs and even create lists of different types of music they want to listen to. You may not know that Pandora has to pay licensing fees to play many of these songs because of federal copyright laws. However, federal laws don't protect songs made before 1972. 

The lack of federal copyright protection for older songs has led to a copyright infringement lawsuit against Pandora. Several major record labels have filed the lawsuit against the Internet radio company saying they have violated copyright laws in several states by playing older songs without the license to do so. 

The record labels say that Pandora doesn't have the right to play older songs without paying a license fee. Record label companies are taking legal action against Pandora because they own the rights to many older songs by popular artists including Bob Dylan, James Brown and even the Beatles. According to the lawsuit, Pandora is making a profit by playing these songs without paying a fee to the record label or artist who owns the rights to the song. 

You may be asking yourself how record labels can even file a lawsuit against Pandora since federal copyright laws don't protect older songs made before 1972. The lawsuit is possible because certain states do offer copyright protection for older songs so the lawsuit can be filed in those specific states.

While this case is still being debated, companies in California should be aware of how they could face legal action for copyright infringement in state or federal court. Even though a plaintiff may not have a legal claim in federal court, they may be able to file a lawsuit in California depending on specific intellectual property laws. 

Source: TIME, "Record Labels Suing Pandora Over Oldies," Sam Frizell, April 18, 2014

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