Beats, Google & Sony hit with unpaid royalties suit by US music publisher

Google, Apple-owned Beats Electronics and Sony all allegedly owe New York-based publisher Zenbu Magazines royalties and are being sued for refusing to pay.

The publisher said the three companies hadn't paid their dues for using music from before 1972 when US copyright law was updated to include music recordings.

"Beats has copied tens of thousands of pre-1972 sound recordings to its servers, transmitting and performing them via the Beats Music Service to its millions of users on a daily basis, without any authorisation," the ruling against Apple states.

"Beats profits from its unauthorised reproduction, distribution, and public performance of pre-1972 recordings by charging subscription fees to its users, without paying royalties or licensing fees for pre-1972 recordings."

One of the tracks Zenbu Magazines claims Beats has been using without permissions is Sin City by the Flying Burrito Brothers, which was recorded in 1969, and the publisher is now attempting to collect punitive damages under Californian state law, royalties and legal fees.

Other artists who are also said to have not been paid royalties by the companies include Hot Tuna and New Riders of the Purple Sage.

Sony's case refers to its PlayStation Music Store and Unlimited Music package. The case against the company states: "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."

Rdio, Songza, Slacker and Escape Media Group (operator of Grooveshark) have all also been involved in legal proceedings for refusing to pay the charges.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.