The music in question, from musicians such as the Beatles,
Louis Armstrong, Marvin Gaye and Fleetwood Mac, is "some of the
most iconic music in the world," the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit, filed in New York state court in Manhattan, seeks
unspecified damages and an immediate halt to Pandora's "massive
and continuing unauthorized commercial exploitation" of older
The plaintiffs include Vivendi SA's Capitol Records Inc and UMG
Recordings Inc, Sony Corp's Sony Music Entertainment, Warner
Music Group Corp and ABKCO Music & Records Inc.
Pandora did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Federal copyright law does not apply to pre-1972 recordings, but
the plaintiffs say New York state law provides copyright
protection for such recordings.
"Pandora's refusal to pay plaintiffs for its use of those
recordings is fundamentally unfair," the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit is not the first to seek fees from digital music
companies for pre-1972 recordings.
Last year, for instance, a U.S. nonprofit that collects digital
royalties for musicians, SoundExchange, filed a federal lawsuit
in Washington, D.C., against satellite radio company Sirius XM
Holdings Inc that includes claims of underpayment regarding
pre-1972 recordings. The lawsuit remains pending.
[to top of second column]
Royalties represent a major expense for Pandora, currently amounting
to approximately half of its annual revenue, and keeping them from
increasing is crucial to the company's business.
"If we are required to obtain licenses for pre-1972 sound recordings
to avoid liability and are unable to secure such licenses, then we
may have to remove pre-1972 sound recordings from our service, which
could harm our ability to attract and retain users," the company
said in a regulatory filing in February.
In an unrelated case in March, a federal judge in New York declined
to alter the rate that Pandora pays to songwriters to license their
music, following a nonjury trial that pitted the American Society of
Composers, Authors and Publishers against Pandora.
The case is Capitol Records et al v Pandora Media Inc, New York
State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 651195/2014.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; editing by David Gregorio)
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