Why Is Sirius Getting Sued Over Pre-1972 Hits?

Musical Instrument

Sirius XM (NASDAQ:SIRI) is being sued by record labels claiming that the satellite radio provider hasn’t been paying adequate royalties for music recorded before 1972, according to a report from The New York Times.

The three largest record companies in the U.S. — Sony (NYSE:SNE), Comcast-owned (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Universal, and Time Warner-owned (NYSE:TWX) Warner Music Group — filed a suit against Sirius in a California court Wednesday. The record companies say Sirius needs to pay royalties on recordings made before 1972, even though those recordings are not protected by federal law. The record companies are arguing that the pre-1972 songs are protected by state law.

On February 15, 1972, federal copyright protection for music recordings was instated. The lawsuit against Sirius XM is only the latest in several recent suits trying to collect what could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars for artists and record labels for songs recorded before that date.

According to a statement released by the Recording Industry Association of America, which represents major record companies, and seen by The Verge, Sirius doesn’t currently pay musicians like the Four Tops and Judy Collins, among others, for any music recorded before 1972.