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Record labels open a Pandora’s Box of copyright suits

Music service Pandora hit by copyright infringement lawsuits from Sony, Warner and Universal

In the record business, three of the biggest 800-pound gorillas are Sony, Universal and Warner Music. When these three music giants get their dander up and go after an alleged copyright infringer, the industry as a whole takes note. 

The three companies, along with independent record label ABKCO, have targeted popular Internet music provider Pandora, claiming that it has been playing classic songs without licenses.

The crux of the issue is one of copyright. Songs recorded before 1972 are not protected under federal copyright, but the record companies argue that Pandora should need permission under state law to use these songs.

The suit, which was brought in the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, states “This case presents a classic attempt by Pandora to reap where it has not sown. Pandora appropriates plaintiffs’ valuable and unique property, violates New York law and engages in common law copyright infringement and misappropriation and unfair competition.” 

Federal copyright law requires Pandora to get licenses to use recordings of songs made after 1972, and the company must adhere to a variety of state laws regarding songs recorded before that year. 

This suit marks a second salvo against new media players. In 2013, classic rock band The Turtles filed a suit against Sirius XM, a satellite radio company, and then the record labels filed their own suit. This movement is supported by many classic music acts, including the widow of crooner Buddy Holly.


For more copyright and trademark news, check out the following:

There’s always money in banana copyrights… or is there?

Superheroes battle over trademarks in the U.K.

Google tries to trademark the word 'Glass'

Katherine Heigl sues Duane Reade over a tweet



Senior Editor and Community Manager

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Rich Steeves

Richard P. Steeves is Senior Editor and Community Manager of InsideCounsel magazine, where he covers the intellectual property and compliance beats. Rich earned a B.A....

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