In today’s increasingly digital world, physical barriers mean less than they ever have. This can be confusing when it comes to some consumer laws that cover certain areas, but not others.
For example, the federal Copyright Act puts a statute of limitations on exclusive rights to any and all recordings made on or before February 15, 1972. This means any musician who recorded music on or before that date has no right to claim any of the rights to that music.
However, various states have their own laws regulating the statute of limitations on art and music, and they are frequently more favorable to artists than the federal law. Any company that sells goods or services in the United States must be sure to abide by all of the relevant local laws, as well as federal regulations.
The Turtles, a 1960s band that recorded their hit song Happy Together in 1967, is currently suing SiriusXM Radio for digitally streaming their song to paying subscribers without the band’s consent. The lead vocalists, Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman (known as Flo and Eddie) formed the company Flo & Eddie, Inc., which currently owns the rights to the group’s music.
According to the lawsuit Flo & Eddie, Inc. licensed the rights to their recordings to be used in movies, television shows, and commercials, but not on radio, whether satellite, digital, or otherwise.
The complaint alleges SiriusXM offers pre-1972 recordings to its subscribers without obtaining licenses or paying any royalties to the people or corporations that own the rights to those recordings. SiriusXM’s policy is allegedly based on federal law, but allegedly violates some state copyright laws.
Flo & Eddie, Inc. has filed class action lawsuits against SiriusXM in California, New York, and Florida: states that have a statute of limitations that are stricter than the federal law.
SiriusXM argued the case should not be permitted to continue as a class action because different class members could have claims of very different amounts.
Far from agreeing with this point of view, Judge Philip S. Gutierrez, of the Central District of California, pointed out that the possibility of smaller claims is all the more reason to certify a class of plaintiffs. Musicians with small claims may not have the ability to pursue those claims if the cost of bringing the lawsuit is greater than the amount they could potentially recover. For those plaintiffs, a class action is their only hope of pursuing compensation for their losses.
SiriusXM also argued that the lawsuit was unnecessary because similar lawsuits had already been filed by three labels. Judge Gutierrez also rejected that argument, pointing out that there’s a big difference between a lawsuit filed by a large, powerful label and one brought by smaller owners, such as Flo & Eddie, Inc. Because the smaller owners are more likely to have smaller claims (and lack the resources of the big labels) they are more likely to be in need of the protections offered by a class action.
Thanks to Judge Gutierrez’s ruling, the California class action lawsuit against SiriusXM will continue.
Our Auora, Illinois consumer rights private law firm handles individual and class action deceptive advertising, predatory lending, unfair debt collection, lemon law and other consumer fraud cases that government agencies and public interest law firms such as the Illinois Attorney General may not pursue. Class action lawsuits our law firm has been involved in or spear-headed have led to substantial awards totalling over a million dollars to organizations including the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Consumer Law Center, and local law school consumer programs. The Chicago consumer lawyers at Lubin Austermuehle are proud of our achievements in assisting national and local consumer rights organizations obtain the funds needed to ensure that consumers are protected and informed of their rights. By standing up to consumer fraud and consumer rip-offs, and in the right case filing consumer protection lawsuits and class-actions you too can help ensure that other consumers’ rights are protected from consumer rip-offs and unscrupulous or dishonest practices.
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