Today, Public Knowledge filed an amicus brief in a federal appeal of a decision that held satellite radio company Sirius XM liable for playing music by The Turtles (and other pre-1972 sound recordings) on the air.
The following can be attributed to Sherwin Siy, Vice President of Legal Affairs for Public Knowledge:
“It's unfortunate, but sound recordings made before 1972 lack federal protection. This is the result of sound recordings not being protected by the Copyright Act at all until 1971. Traditionally, state law has filled this gap by protecting recording artists against the unauthorized copying of their works — but not against unauthorized public performance.
“Not only do states not have a history of preventing public performances of sound recordings; the federal laws didn't, either. Even today, sound recording artists are only given the right to prohibit digital performances of their works; they lack the right to prevent traditional broadcasters or anyone else from replaying their performances without permission.
“Although we believe that musicians and other recording artists deserve a public performance right, both for new and old works, the district court in this case assumed it could create a brand-new protection for them in the courts, not in the legislature, where such decisions belong. Creating such a right from the bench not only conflicts with the detailed legal structure already in place at the federal level, it also undermines the certainty of what works have what rights, a continuing discussion in Congress.
“We filed our brief in this case to illustrate that the various rights that copyright holders have in their works don't come as a sort of default bundle; different types of works have long had different types of rights. We may be in the process of reducing those differences, but we can't pretend that history was otherwise.
“Public Knowledge supports legislative efforts to federalize pre-1972 sound recordings, and to give sound recording artists the rights they deserve. For better or worse, that's an effort that has to take place in Congress, and not in the courts.”
You can read our amicus brief here.
Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at firstname.lastname@example.org or 405-249-9435.