In the latest turn of events around The Turtles' crusade to collect on royalties for songs recorded prior to 1972, Pandora has filed an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) motion, arguing -- in a creative gambit reminiscent of the company's failed play at buying a South Dakota radio station -- that The Turtles are infringing on its first amendment right to publicly perform the band's artistic works.
The Turtles filed a lawsuit against Pandora in September, right after a California judge ruled that SiriusXM should be paying royalties for pre-1972 recordings under state copyright law. The satellite radio service has long argued that it doesn't have to pay master recording performance royalties for pre-1972 albums to labels and artists because the U.S. didn't recognize the master recordings copyright until 1972. Labels and artists have long maintained that individual state law confers copyright to master recordings and that digital services like SiriusXM and Pandora were infringing on those copyrights. But no one had filed legal action on this issue until this summer, when a spate of lawsuits were brought against the two services in different states by record labels, SoundExchange and The Turtles. So far, Flo & Eddie -- singers in The Turtles -- have won their suits in New York and the previously mentioned suit in California.
In its defense against Flo & Eddie, who filed the lawsuit against Pandora for non-payment of master recordings performance royalties, the digital radio service claims that the duo are asserting rights that do not exist and that, if they do exist, the duo has failed to assert any such right in the 47 years since their music was released. Besides that, Pandora says the anti-SLAPP statute protects free-speech conduct by striking rights-burdening claims at the outset of litigation. Citing the California Civil Code of procedure, Pandora is seeking an order that would strike all of the causes of action in the Flo & Eddie complaint.