EMI and its Capitol label settled their U.S. copyright infringement lawsuit against Naxos of America. The deal resolves issues over classical recordings that fell into the public domain in the United Kingdom.
The suit drew a legal spotlight last April when New York State’s highest appeals court held that sound recordings not covered by federal copyright law, i.e., those produced before Feb. 15, 1972, are protected until 2067 by the state’s common law (the law created by the courts through legal precedent).
As a result, such historical recordings as the 1930s classical performances of Yehudi Menuhin, Pablo Casals and Edwin Fischer, released by Naxos in the United States but recorded in England, could not be copied or distributed in New York without permission by the copyright holder. Those rights were claimed by Capitol through an exclusive license from EMI, the successor of the original Gramaphone label which recorded the performers.
The earlier decision interpreting New York law was made after the federal Court of Appeals requested the state’s interpretation of its law. Other issues were still pending in the federal District Court in New York where Capitol initially filed the suit in 2001.
The settlement announced today (Jan. 5) ends the litigation. Naxos has agreed to discontinue U.S. sales of certain classical and other recordings sold under its various labels. The remaining terms of the agreement are confidential.
“I am delighted that this matter has been resolved amicably in a manner consistent with the decision of the New York Court of Appeals,” says Richard Lyttelton, president of EMI Classics and Jazz.