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May 29, 2014 | CEO's Corner

Saluting the RESPECT Act

If you’re a SiriusXM or Pandora fan like us, it’s likely you’ve faced this situation: you’re in the car on a long drive, or you’re reading or making dinner, and the mood for music strikes you. You type in to your Pandora app an artist you like, or you start channel flipping through SiriusXM’s offerings. 50s on 5. 60s on 6. Motown station. You have a hankering for Aretha Franklin music (and similar songs), so you create an Aretha channel on Pandora. This genre of music may be decades old, but it still makes you groove or helps make a long drive bearable. And guess what? Pandora and SiriusXM know that too – after all, that’s why they offer those stations.

But something folks may not know is that Pandora and SiriusXM don’t pay artists or rights holders for music they play that was made before 1972. That’s when federal copyright law kicks in and says that services like Pandora and SiriusXM must pay artists and rights holders to play their music. So all post-1972 artists are paid when they are played on these services, but not the recordings of pre-1972 artists — which include so many legends that paved the way for current artists and helped develop the sounds we hear today. Pandora and SiriusXM are ignoring the importance of state laws which protect music made before 1972. These state laws are the basis of our two ongoing lawsuits against Pandora in New York and SiriusXM in California. Legacy artists and labels deserve to be paid when their music is played on these services, and we will continue to fight to right this wrong in state court.

Others recognize this problem and are moving forward to fix it. U.S. House Reps. George Holding and John Conyers have introduced a bill called the RESPECT Act which requires digital music services like Pandora and SiriusXM to pay ALL artists and rights holders for their music, regardless of the date that music was made. After all, a business that uses someone else’s property should pay for it. Litigation is one way to resolve past injustices, but smart prospective legislation is the best way to address the issue moving forward. We strongly support this bill and echo the call for SiriusXM and Pandora to do the right thing and not leave pre-72 artists out in the cold. We thank Reps. Holding, Conyers, and other co-sponsors for their leadership and recognition that all artists and rights holders deserve payment for their work, regardless of the distribution platform.

For more information on the pre-72 campaign, please visit

Cary Sherman