CA Judge Rules for CBS Radio


Music-Record2CBS Radio won a music copyright ruling in California that could have implications for other radio groups.

A federal court judge ruled that songs CBS Radio aired that were originally recorded before 1972 but remastered after that by CBS do not fall under the purview of state copyright law, but rather are covered by federal law.

The ruling to dismiss the case from U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson goes against arguments posed by ABS Entertainment, joined by Barnaby Records, Brunswick Record Corporation, and Malaco Inc. They sued CBS Radio over copyright payments for songs by artists like Al Green, Andy Williams, the Everly Brothers, Jackie Wilson, the Chi-Lites and Mahalia Jackson, reported the Hollywood Reporter.

ABS argued that simply converting analog versions of the songs into digital recordings was a “mechanical” function with no creativity attached to the effort, meaning the songs essentially were originals dating to before the 1972 federal copyright laws kicked in and therefore were subject to state law.

The judge disagreed, saying there is creativity involved in the versions that the broadcaster aired.

The ruling means CBS doesn’t have to pay music royalties to air them. (It does to stream them.) The case could be a guideline for how other states treat similar pre-1972 suits.

Asked for comment, CBS Radio told RBR+TVBR: “We are pleased that the court has ruled that the broadcast of pre-1972 sound recordings which have been re-mastered after 1972 is governed by federal copyright law rather than state law, especially when original expression has been added during the re-mastering process.”