Flo & Eddie v. Sirius XM, No. 15-13100 (11th Cir. Jun. 29, 2016).
In "The Turtles" appeal from a decision granting Sirius XM summary judgment on the common law copyright infringement claim concerning the public performance of pre-1972 sound recordings, the 11th Circuit deferred its decision pending a determination of the state-law question by Florida's highest court. The lower court had decided, in favor of Sirius, that Florida common law does not recognize an exclusive right of performance. On appeal, the 11th Circuit discussed an old (1943) Florida Supreme Court case involving magic tricks and found that the case "indicates that there is at least a significant argument that Florida common law may recognize a common law property right in sound recordings." However, the 11th Circuit also indicated that the old magic trick case indicated that "publication" of the intellectual property could result in termination of the common law copyright.
Neither the Supreme Court of Florida nor any of the Florida District Courts of Appeal have addressed whether Florida common law would recognize copyright protection for sound recordings, and if so, whether the sales to the public of Flo & Eddie’s sound recordings or the public performance thereof would constitute a publication or dedication to the public which would terminate the copyright protection in whole or in part.
Accordingly, the 11th Cir. certified the following questions to the Florida Supreme Court.
Because Florida law is not clear on these matters, we certify to the Supreme Court of Florida the questions of whether Florida common law copyright extends to pre-1972 sound recordings and, if so, whether it includes an exclusive right of public performance and/or an exclusive right of reproduction. We also certify the question of whether Flo & Eddie has forfeited any common law copyright by publication. Additionally, to the extent that Florida recognizes a common law copyright in sound recordings including a right of exclusive reproduction, we certify the question of whether the backup or buffer copies made by Sirius constitute infringement of Flo & Eddie’s common law copyright.
Lastly, to the extent that Florida does not recognize a common law copyright in sound recordings, or to the extent that such a copyright was terminated by publication, the 11th Circuit certified the question of whether plaintiff nevertheless has a cause of action for common law unfair competition / misappropriation, common law conversion, or statutory civil theft.