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Radio station sued for $1.5 B for failing to pay to play songs

News and Notes Focused on the 3 Public Faces of IP Law

  • Brand Image Protection - Trademark Law
  • Visual Image Protection - Copyright Law
  • Personal Image Protection - Right of Publicity Law

The Image Protection Law blog has been created in order to share stories and information on the legal aspects of: 1) the marketplace reputation of a company or product captured in its trademark, 2) published or publicly-displayed artwork, photography, and any created visual design, and 3) use of a person's photograph or likeness for product promotion or other commercial purposes.

The "IP3" share at least one thing in common: Image is everything. In these posts let's look at what that means in the realm of intellectual property in the news, but let's also be prepared to explore if there's something more beyond "everything." Don't forget, the intellectual in "intellectual property" doesn't mean smart or brainy, although by nature true creators often are. The word is used to refer to any creation, i.e., a "product of the mind." While this blog will be regularly updated, you are encouraged to share your thoughts on these posts.

Making it as a songwriter is no easy task. Once a song becomes famous, artists rely on earnings from continued use of the songs, often on the radio. Radio stations who fail to pay artists for the use of their songs can face legal ramifications.

A current lawsuit provides an example.

How does this work?

Before we delve into the details of the case, it helps to have a basic understanding of how radio stations are able to play music. The federal Copyright Act allows copyrights for music. This allows artists to protect their work and potentially make money from the songs they write, produce and perform. To play songs, radio stations need to receive permission from the artists. The copyright owner can provide permission to the radio station in the form of a license.

Getting a license for each song is impractical. As a result, a couple of organizations represent thousands of copyright owners. This makes the licensing process to play music much more efficient and better ensures artists get paid without making it too difficult to get their music on air.

In this case, one of the organizations, Global Music Rights, claims a radio station has failed to pay for the use of over 130 songs played more than 10,000 times. Examples of songs played without permission include "Enter Sandman" by Metallica and "Fly Like an Eagle" by Steve Miller.

What are the potential damages?

The damages can be extremely high. In this case, the group that represents the artists has requested $150,000 for each instance of infringement, or the maximum allowed award. This translates to a request of over $1.5 billion in damages.

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