Texas Trademark Lawyer Tamera Bennett

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RESPECT ACT - Pre-72 Sound Recording Copyright Protection

SoundExchange was joined by dozens of recording artists  to launch “Project72,” a campaign to ensure equal treatment for musicians and rights holders with sound recordings made prior to 1972 from digital radio.

Sound recordings were not protected by Federal Copyright in the United States until February 15, 1972. There's a hodge-podge of state copyright laws that artists and record labels use to fight bootleg recordings and piracy of those legacy recordings.

In a 2013 appellate court opinion, the court held that certain safe-harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act do not extend to websites for Pre-72 recordings because such recordings do not fall under the federal copyright act.  But, the flip-side of that result is that certain benefits of the U.S. Copyright Act, such as payment of a digital public performance royalty, may not accrue to these legacy recordings. Pandora and SirrusXM both drew a line in the sand and have stopped paying digital public performance royalties for Pre-72 recordings.

In testimony before Congress in July 2014, Pandora said they have no problem paying the royalty once the Copyright Act is revised to include protection for Pre-72 recordings.  But, what about state copyright law? It's clear the Pre-72 recordings are protected by state law. So, don't Pandora, SirrusXM and others have an obligation to pay under state law? We are keeping an eye on pending litigation in New York against Pandora on this topic.

Tell Congress to support the RESPECT Act, H.R. 4772.

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