The Turtles Lose Copyright Battle Against Satellite Radio Giant Sirius XM

Andres Kroboth Copyright

On Oct. 26, 2017, The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments on whether Sirius XM should have to pay royalties to The Turtles, an oldies pop duo responsible for recording classics such as “Happy Together” over four decades ago. Turtles vocalists Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan sued Sirius XM in 2013, alleging Sirius XM infringed The Turtle’s common-law copyright by making “unauthorized public performances” of their oldies hits.

The Florida Supreme court was tasked with determining whether Florida common law recognizes property rights in sound recordings before 1972, when the federal government did not granted protection for sound recordings. Appearing skeptical, Justice Barbara Pariente said that The Turtles are essentially asking the court to “extrapolate certain statutes to come up with this idea that somehow there was a common law right before 1972.”

The Turtles argued for a broad interpretation of Florida property laws and requested royalties for what was described as audio work being taken and leased to 28 million subscribers with impunity and without a license.

The Florida Supreme Court, unanimously decided, in favor of Siruis XM, holding that there are no Florida common law property protections for sound recordings before 1972 and therefore The Turtles would not be entitled to any royalties.