Pandora and the music industry have been butting heads for a while over whether artists should be paid a pittance or less than a pittance for their work. And now, they’ve started butting heads over whether or not Pandora has the right to pay for anything from before 1972. Yes, really.
The Hollywood Reporter has a fairly in-depth piece about the problem, which needless to say is about money. Specifically, it’s about how Pandora pays artists and songwriters:
The subject of the lawsuit has to do with the fact that sound recordings didn’t begin falling under federal copyright protection until [February 15th, 1972.] As such, the streaming service might not be able to rely upon SoundExchange, the performance rights organization that collects digital and satellite royalties on the behalf of sound recording copyright owners.
This is potentially a pretty serious problem for Pandora, because they have thousands of stations and song playing pre-1972 music, ranging from Motown to jazz, that probably total millions, if not billions of plays. In theory, Pandora would be financially on the hook for all of those, and the labels are demanding all that music be yanked.
Oh, and did we mention that this might vary from state to state? As in, you might be unable to get the Beatles from Pandora in New York, but hop the border to Vermont and you’ve got all the Fab Four you can handle? Before you ask, yes, there is always a way lawsuits involving the music industry can get stupider.
In the long run, this is unlikely to actually happen. What the labels really want is a way to squeeze more cash out of Pandora, and the minute, say, Pandora agrees to a royalty increase, somehow magically all these lawsuits will go away.