Friday, April 7, 2017

FL Supreme Court Hears Turtles Tunes Case

The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday in a case focused on whether satellite radio giant SiriusXM should have to pay royalties to The Turtles, a pop duo that recorded such iconic oldies as “Happy Together” more than four decades ago.

Flo & Eddie — a California-based company whose principals are Turtles vocalists Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan — filed the lawsuit in 2013 against Sirius, which has more than 100 channels and over 24 million subscribers. Flo & Eddie also filed lawsuits against the satellite radio company in New York and California.

Flo & Eddie accused Sirius XM of infringing on its common-law copyright of songs by making “unauthorized public performances” of the pop group’s hits.

But a federal district court judge in Florida sided with Sirius, finding in part that nothing in Florida statutes or common law dealt with copyrights of recordings that were made before 1972, when the federal Sound Recordings Act went into effect.

Flo & Eddie appealed, but the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case to the Florida Supreme Court, asking justices to decide, among other things, whether the state common law recognizes a property right in sound recordings.

According to, during Thursday’s arguments, both sides repeatedly referred to a 1943 Florida case involving Charles Hoffman, a magician who was also known as “Think-a-Drink Hoffman.” Hoffman, who made fancy drinks appear out of empty cocktail shakers and beakers filled with water, sought an injunction against Maurice Glazer, who went by the names “Think-a-Drink Count Maurice” or “Have-a-Drink Count Maurice.”

Because a court in the Glazer case sided in part with Hoffman, the three-judge federal appellate panel found that “there is at least a significant argument that Florida common law may recognize a common law property right in sound recordings.”

But during Thursday’s arguments, several justices appeared skeptical that Florida common law would apply to the Turtles case.

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