The music industry is in a strange place right now
Music sales, both physical and digital, are in a death spiral, and the era of streaming-music platforms—be they financed by subscriptions or ads—is clearly upon us.
Hence the labels’ lawsuits against Pandora and Sirius. These lawsuits are built on the claim that while pre-1972 recordings aren’t covered by US federal law, they are covered by state laws. That’s what the courts will have to decide. The Future of Music Coalition, a group that supports artists, has pointed out that there is a “patchwork” of state civil statutes, criminal laws, and common law that protects pre-1972 recordings, but as recently as 2011, the US Copyright Office found that “in general, state law does not appear to recognize a performance right in sound recordings.”
Casey Ray, from the Future of Music Coalition, has speculated that the labels’ opposition to extending copyright might be part of a strategy: to get services like Pandora to strike direct deals with them for content, as Spotify does, instead of have royalty rates set independently by the courts. He also points out that “safe harbor” provisions—which protect online firms from being sued if users upload copyrighted content on to their systems—may not apply to non-copyrighted content, thus opening up online firms to more possible lawsuits.