Slow and Steady Fails to Win the Race for the Turtles
Members of 1960s rock band The Turtles have lost a major legal battle in their quest to collect copyright royalties from their old hit songs.
The Florida Supreme Court held today (PDF) that the state doesn't recognize any copyrights in pre-1972 music recordings, despite the band's arguments to the contrary. All seven justices concurred in the ruling. Flo & Eddie, a company that represents two members of The Turtles, had claimed that even though there is no federal copyright in sound recordings for pre-1972 songs, they are entitled to payments because their songs are protected by state copyrights and common law. The band members sued Sirius XM in 2013, and lawsuits against streaming services like Pandora followed. The major record labels also got involved, essentially copying The Turtles' strategy, by suing Sirius as well as Pandora.
However, following those settlements, copyright owners were dealt a setback. Last year, New York's highest court voted 6-2 that there's no right to control public performances under the state's common law. New York state copyright is strictly about copying. Today's ruling out of Florida is in many ways similar to that New York ruling.