SoundExchange/Sirius Royalty Dispute Belongs Before Copyright Royalty Board, Not Federal Court

SoundExchange, Inc. v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc., No. 1:13-cv-1290 (D.D.C. filed August 26, 2014).

Pursuant to the "primary jurisdiction" doctrine, a federal district court judge stayed a royalties dispute between SoundExchange and Sirius, saying that the dispute belongs before the Copyright Royalty Board.  The parties already had met before the CRB in two prior proceedings, setting royalty rates for the digital broadcast of sound recordings on satellite radio  SoundExchange brought an action in federal court alleging that Sirius underpaid royalties owed from 2007-2012 (the subject of the first CRB proceeding).  The instant dispute centered on the meaning of the term "Gross Revenues" (a percentage of which are the royalties owed SoundExchange), and Sirius's alleged reductions/exclusions therefrom based on pre-72 recordings and Sirius' premiere subscriber package.  The Court agreed with Sirius that the disputes "are best suited to review in the first instance by the CRB. ... [T]he technical and policy expertise of the CRB makes referral to that body appropriate."  Because neither party was asking for a change in the royalty rates, only a clarification, the CRB was found to have continuing jurisdiction.

Senate Proposes Royalties for Broadcast Sound Recordings

A new bill has been introduced in the Senate that would require over-the-air radio broadcasters to pay royalties for performances of sound recordings. Radio already pays royalties to composers for the music they broadcast, but since the advent of radio, stations have not been required to pay royalties to the performing artists or record labels. The new bill would give sound recording copyright holders the right to control performances of their recordings, but would set up a compulsory license under which radio stations would be able to perform sound recordings pursuant to agreed-upon rates.

By Bruce G. Joseph and Matthew J. Astle, Wiley Rein LLP (2/20/09)

Blue Monk

Yesterday, members of the jazz ensemble The Thelonious Monk Quartet (John Ore and Frankie Dunlop) filed suit against Thelonious Monk's record label (and others) for alleged copyright infringement and bootlegging arising from the broadcast of live musical perfomrances of the artists while members of the ensemble.

OTCS imagines the following defense could be fatal to plaintiffs: WORK MADE FOR HIRE! Time will tell...

[John Ore; Francis Dunlop; Robin Dunlop v. Thelonious Records Inc.; Thelonious S. Monk Jr. aka TS Monk; Peter Grain; filed 11/29/2007; CV-10681 SDNY]