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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

No Common Law Right of Public Performance for Creators of Pre-1972 Sound Recordings 

A decision in Flo & Eddie, Inc. v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc has come down.

The plaintiff, which claim to own the rights to the recordings of "The Turtles," a well-known band with a string of hits in the 1960s, sued Sirius XM Radio, Inc., a radio and internet-radio broadcaster, claiming that Sirius infringed on the plaintiff's copyright in The Turtle's recordings.  On a motion for summary judgment, Sirius claimed that there was no public performance rights in pre-1972 recordings under New York law and that if such a right existed, it violated the Dormant Commerce Clause.

The District Court held that there was such a right and that it did not violate the Dormant Commerce Clause.  Sirius then moved for reconsideration or to certify its order for interlocutory appeal.  The Court denied the motion for reconsideration, but certified both the summary judgment and reconsideration orders for immediate appeal.

On appeal, the Second Circuit decided that there was an unclear issue of state law that should be decided by the New York State Court of Appeals -- whether there is a right of public performance for creators of pre-1972 sound recordings.

On December 20, 2016, the Court of Appeals held that New York common law does not recognize such a right.

Based on this finding, the Second Circuit reversed the District Court's order denying summary judgment and remanded the case to the District Court with instruction to grant Sirius's motion for summary judgment and to dismiss the case with prejudice.

The New York State Court of Appeal's decision can be found here.  The Second Circuit's decision can be found here.

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