Florida Supreme Court: No State Protection For Recording Musicians
In a ruling issued Oct. 26, the Florida Supreme Court denied all claims brought by Flo & Eddie against SiriusXM by resolving the question, "Does Florida common law recognize the exclusive right of public performance in pre-1972 sound recordings?" Their answer is: "No."
Federal copyright protection for sound recordings began in 1972, so state courts must determine whether local laws protected musicians on recordings before then.
Billboard traced the tangled drama of lawsuits brought by Flo & Eddie beginning in 2013, when the duo sued SiriusXM in California, Florida and New York on the issue of pre-1972 licensing. As members of the hit band the Turtles, Flo & Eddie — Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman — had been part of the mid-'60s Bob Dylan era, best known for their recording of "Happy Together" (GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, 2007).
Renaming themselves, the duo went on to further fame with Frank Zappa's Mothers Of Invention, in which "Flo" became short for "The Phlorescent Leech." They also contributed to hits such as Bruce Springsteen's "Hungry Heart" as studio background vocalists.
As far as common law protection for public performance rights goes, these cases have now been resolved in Florida and New York with the same answer: "No rights."
Judgment by the California Supreme Court is still pending. It is possible the appeals process will result in rulings more favorable for pre-1972 recording artists. Meanwhile, over the years of litigation, major labels brought their own lawsuits and settled them, and SiriusXM reached a complex settlement with independent artists such as Flo & Eddie, allowing the pre-1972 issue to continue to be litigated. The satellite service is now paying license fees for pre-1972 performances but will receive a discount if it eventually wins.
It's a long and complex story, part of the greater complexity of U.S. copyright law that has outdated layers of regulation ill-suited to today's commercial ecosystem for music. The CLASSICS Act, introduced in Congress earlier this year, would fix the pre-1972 issue for legacy recording artists. This bill is a key component of comprehensive music reform. Bipartisan support for copyright reform continues to build in Congress, driven in part by the Recording Academy’s ongoing and relentless Advocacy efforts.