Thursday, October 22, 2015

CBS Radio Tells Court It Doesn't Play Pre-72 Hits

ABS Entertainment, which owns the recordings of Al Green, among others, has lawsuits filed against CBS Radio, iHeartMedia and Cumulus asserting violations of various state laws and demands that the defendants stop publicly performing their works without license.

On Tuesday, CBS Radio filed a motion to strike the complaint and are bringing a new argument in this controversy, according to Billboard.

The radio giant says that it doesn't perform ABS' pre-1972 recordings. "CBS does not play vinyl sound recordings," states a memorandum filed in California federal court.

"In fact, every song CBS has played in the last four years has been a post-1972 digital sound recording that has been re-issued or re-mastered. For example, 'Tired of Being Alone' is found on UMG's 2006 The Best of Al Green compilation. That CD contains the re-mastered version of the song created and registered for copyright in 2000. The 'Let's Stay Together' recording CBS played is the 2003 re-mastered sound recording as re-issued in 2009 by Fat Possum Records."

According to Billboard, plaintiffs will surely argue this doesn't matter, that the derivatives are protected under California law as well, but CBS asserts otherwise -- that copyright attaches to the specific aural version of a work and what radio audiences are hearing are "actual sounds" coming from re-mastered versions. If the theory holds, and the new works are covered by federal copyright law, it would mean there's only a limited public performance right for the digital sound recordings, subject to a compulsory license.

CBS' legal brief also aims to rehash the arguments that sound recordings have long been broadcast on radio stations without restriction, that record companies have recognized this by attempting to lobby Congress to change the law by requiring a license for the performance of such recordings and that California common law copyrights prevents unauthorized copying but not performance.

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