9th Circuit: Digital Remasters Are Not Independently Copyrightable Works

9th Circuit: Digital Remasters Are Not Independently Copyrightable Works

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SAN FRANCISCO (CelebrityAccess) — In a ruling on Monday, The U.S. Ninth Circuit overturned a lower court’s ruling that digital remasters of 1972 sound recordings were copyrightable derivative works, opening up the door for royalty payments on streams for the material.

In the lawsuit, ABS Entertainment, Inc. v. CBS Corporation, plaintiffs seek royalty payments from CBS Corporation for radio broadcasts and digital performances involving pre-1972 musical recordings, including works from music legends such as Al Green, Jackie Wilson, The Everly Brothers, and King Floyd among others.

In a June 2016 ruling, a lower court granted summary judgment to the defendants finding that the plaintiffs’ claims were preempted by the Sound Recording Act, which excuses infringement for performances by terrestrial radio fixed after February 15, 1972.

However, The 9th Circuit concluded that “a derivative sound recording distinctly identifiable solely by the changes in medium generally does not exhibit the minimum level of originality to be copyrightable.”

The 9th Circuit also found that the “district court erred in concluding that plaintiffs’ state copyright interest in the pre-1972 sound recordings embodied in the remastered sound recordings was preempted by federal copyright law. The panel held that the creation of an authorized digital remastering of pre-1972 analog sound recordings that qualify as copyrightable derivative works does not bring the remastered sound recordings exclusively under the ambit of federal law.”

“The Ninth Circuit’s decision completely vindicates our clients,” said Robert Allen, a principal at a law firm representing the plaintiffs. “The Court overturned the lower court’s application of local rules concerning when class actions must be certified, and found that our clients’ remastered recordings were not derivative works, and that even if they were, the Copyright Act would not preclude our clients from enforcing their rights. We will continue to vigorously enforce and protect our clients’ intellectual property.”

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