Friday 3 February 2017

Florida appellate court to hear Turtles' appeal

The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments beginning on April 6th in the copyright-infringement lawsuit filed by founding members of the 1960s rock group the Turtles against SiriusXM satellite radio.

Flo & Eddie Inc., the California-based company whose principals are Turtles vocalists Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, filed the lawsuit in 2013 alleging copyright infringement involving music made prior to 1972. Flo & Eddie have won suits against SiriusXM in California and New York (the later subsequently over turned) but a federal district court judge in Florida sided in 2015 with the satellite broadcaster, finding nothing in Florida statutes or common law dealt with copyrights of recordings made before 1972 (and the federal Copyright Act).

Judge Darrin Gayle said that "Florida is different"  (from New York and California) saying "There is no specific Florida legislation covering sound recording property rights, nor is there a bevy of case law interpreting common law copyright related to the arts." Declining to fill the void in the state's legislation the Judge said "If this Court adopts Flo & Eddie’s position, it would be creating a new property right in Florida as opposed to interpreting the law" adding that it's the job of the Florida state legislature to address the issue, and that a decision to plug the gap would bring up a host of other issues such as resolving who sets and administers licensing rates, who owns sound recordings for dead artists and what exceptions there might be to a public performance right.

The case went to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which asked the Florida Supreme Court to take up the issues involving state law. 

In December 2016, a majority in New York's highest court ruled that Sirius XM did not have to get permission, or pay compensation, to the owners of pre-1972 music recordings in order to play their tracks in the case brought by the owners of The Turtle's 1967 hit "Happy Together."  The Court of Appeals determined that New York common law does not recognise a "public performance right" in their decision in Flo & Eddie v. Sirius XM Radio. The Court of Appeals' ruling comes in response to a certified question from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which inquired in April whether New York's common law provides copyright protections for recordings not covered by federal law. Southern District Judge Colleen McMahon had denied Sirius' motion for summary judgment in 2014, finding that New York common law did provide a public-right performance 

That ruling came ust weeks after a settlement between the Turtles members and SiriusXM in a related lawsuit in California. U.S. District Judge Phillip Gutierrez ruled against SiriusXM in 2014, holding that California state law, as it is written, gives the master recording owner exclusive performance rights.

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