March 25, 2017 / 7:39 AM

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Lawsuit Against Google, Sony, Rdio, Beats Electronics and More May End Pre-1972 Music Streaming and Internet Radio

Google (Photo : Getty Images/Adam Berry)

Music streaming controversy has gotten uglier as a lawsuits have been filed against Google, Sony Entertainment, Rdio, Songza, Apple's Beats Electronics and more on behalf of the music group that owns the catalogues of the Flying Burrito Brothers, Hot Tuna and Purple Sage. The results of the collective legal push could result in thousands of songs written prior to 1972 disappearing from the internet.

Zenbu Magazines, the aforementioned owner, is suing for profits, punitive damages and an injunction of further spins without acquiring licensing to do so. A long-standing tradition in the music broadcast industry has been the belief that songs written prior to February 15, 1972 were legally open for playing via radio and other formats due to the reformation of copyright law that only gave protections to works composed after that time.

That belief went belly-up during 2013 when '60s band The Turtles filed a class-action lawsuit against Sirius Radio and Pandora, seeking $100 million and alleging that the recordings were protected by state laws in California and elsewhere. The courts, to the shock of music broadcasters, agreed with the band. That lawsuit opened the door for similar pieces of litigation from performers of that era, and it has the potential to create huge cutbacks on the availability of classic music from internet providers.

If the Zenbu lawsuits move forward, here's a sample of what to expect. Billboard acquired a copy of the papers brought against Sony (which offers music online via its Playstation video game consoles).

"Sony's conduct as alleged herein was unfair because its conduct was immoral, unethical, unscrupulous, or substantially injurious and the utility of its conduct, if any, did not outweigh the gravity of the harm to its victims."

Our advice: Get out there and stream your favorite '50s and '60s albums while you still can.

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