A Florida Supreme Court Rules That Pre-1972 Recordings Are Public Domain

10.30.17 3 weeks ago 4 Comments

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For years now, Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman of 1960s rock band The Turtles have been fighting quite the legal battle. Before 1972, copyright for musical recordings was determined by state laws, meaning that there is no consistent copyright law for pre-1972 recordings. This has made it tough for groups like The Turtles to collect royalties on their music, and the Florida Supreme Court just ruled that, at least in Florida, recordings made before February 15th, 1972 are not protected by copyright law.

In the ruling for Flo & Eddie, Inc. v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc., 827 F.3d 1016, 1018 (11th Cir. 2016), the justices write that “Florida common law [does not recognize] an exclusive right of public performance in pre-1972 sound recordings” and “that Flo & Eddie’s various state law claims fail.”

This means that in Florida, these recordings are considered public domain, so classic songs by Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Doors, Elvis Presley, and so many others can be used freely. It’s important to note, though, that this only applies to the recordings, not the compositions, which are protected by separate laws.

Digital Music News notes that this decision “is part of a broader legal war by the Turtles,” and that while the ruling only applies to Florida, it could influence decisions in other states and, as the publication puts it, “trigger a domino effect against copyright protection for oldies.”

Read the entire decision here. Listen to Simon & Garfunkel’s 1970 track “The Only Living Boy In New York” below, and if you’re in Florida, feel free to play it however you please.

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