Skip Navigation

Close and don't show again.

Your browser is out of date.

You may not get the full experience here on National Journal.

Please upgrade your browser to any of the following supported browsers:

Here Are 1,400 Songs You Might Never Hear Again on Your Pandora Station Here Are 1,400 Songs You Might Never Hear Again on Your Pandora Statio...

This ad will end in seconds
Close X

Not a member? Learn More »

Forget Your Password?

Don't have an account? Register »

Reveal Navigation



Here Are 1,400 Songs You Might Never Hear Again on Your Pandora Station

From the Stones' “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” songs recorded before 1972 are the subject of a new copyright lawsuit.

Simpler times: The Beatles perform in November 1963.(Getty Images)

photo of Dustin Volz
April 21, 2014

Baby boomers worried that the great music of their youth would be forgotten by their kids and their kids' kids have a new reason to fretfully twist and shout.

Last week, the music industry sued Pandora Media, claiming the popular Internet radio service is unfairly evading paying tens of millions in royalties on hit tunes recorded before February 1972. Thanks to an obscure quirk in the legal system, those pre-1972 oldies are exempt from federal copyright protection, meaning Pandora and services like it don't need to pay the compulsory licensing fees required for less-dated music.

But major labels contend that Pandora, by not first earning permission to play those songs, is violating state laws that more generically protect intellectual property and should apply to the classic gems of yesteryear. The labels, including Sony, Universal, and Warner Music, as well as ABKCO, an independent that owns many of the Rolling Stones' biggest hits, have gone to great lengths to illustrate that point.


A list (shown below) of more than 1,400 popular songs are included in their lawsuit as a "sample" of the pre-1972 songs Pandora is alleged to stream to its users without paying royalty fees.

Conveniently, the list includes a designation next to several songs that mark an inclusion in Rolling Stone magazine's ranking of the 500 greatest songs of all time. Unsurprisingly, a large number of those hits dot the list: Aretha Franklin's thunderous "Respect" ( No. 5), Bill Withers' resurgent "Ain't No Sunshine" (285), an endless cascade of Beatles hits ("She Loves You" at 64, "Yesterday" at 13, "Hey Jude" at 8), Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" (110) and, of course, Bob Dylan's zeitgeisty "Like A Rolling Stone" (No. 1).

"This case presents a classic attempt by Pandora to reap where it has not sown," the suit, filed in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, declares. The pre-1972 recordings, it adds, "constitute a significant part of the Pandora service and its appeal."

A Pandora representative could not provide precise play numbers, but said the pre-1972 catalog represents only "a small percentage of overall spins." The company said it is confident in its legal authority on the matter.

The suit, which follows on the heels of similar complaints made last year against SiriusXM Radio in a California court, represents an effort by the music industry to create a new revenue stream, given that the popularity of Pandora has exploded in recent years, and now tops 70 million regular users.

But a ruling against Pandora could potentially have serious ramifications on the level of access to pre-1972 songs, said David Sunshine, an intellectual-property lawyer with Cozen O'Connor, a law firm based in Philadelphia. While compulsory licensing fees Pandora and others pay on post-1972 works don't require obtaining permission from the artist, that wouldn't be true for pre-1972 songs protected under the "Wild West of state law," Sunshine added, though he noted such an outcome was probably unlikely.

"The problem that [record labels] are going to face is, folks haven't been paying these royalties for a long time," Sunshine said. "You can't just wake up 40 years later and say, 'You need to pay me.' "

Whatever its chances, though, the music industy will try its best to cash in on your "Motown" and "Classic Rock" stations.

How Copyright Could Sink Your Pandora Station

LIKE THIS STORY? Sign up for Tech Edge

Sign up for our daily newsletter and stay on top of tech coverage.

Sign up form for Tech Edge
Job Board
Search Jobs
Biomedical Service Internship Position
American Society of Civil Engineers | Flint, MI
Fire Sprinkler Inspector
American Society of Civil Engineers | Charlotte, NC
Professional Development Program Engineer
American Society of Civil Engineers | Farmington Hills, MI
Deputy Director of Transit Operations
American Society of Civil Engineers | San Jose, CA
Transportation Planner
American Society of Civil Engineers | Salinas, CA
Assistant Professor - Water Resources/Ecological Engineering
American Society of Civil Engineers | Auburn, AL
Product Manager - Chemical Development and Supply - Tulsa, OK
American Society of Civil Engineers | Tulsa, OK
Commissioning Intern
American Society of Civil Engineers | Chicago, IL
Assessment and Remediation Team Lead
American Society of Civil Engineers | Regina, SK
Business Development Manager
American Society of Civil Engineers
Sr. Controls Systems Engineer
American Society of Civil Engineers | Grand Island, NE
Senior Project Manager- Transportation
American Society of Civil Engineers | San Antonio, TX
Materials Engineer 2
American Society of Civil Engineers | IL
Land Surveyor
American Society of Civil Engineers
Quality Engineer
American Society of Civil Engineers | Attica, IN
comments powered by Disqus