It’s all kicking off in the US over Pandora’s licensing policies, but this time it’s labels putting the boot in, rather than artists, songwriters or publishers. The three major labels, ABKCO and the RIAA have filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the personal radio service, focusing on the already-sensitive issue of copyright for pre-1972 recordings, and Pandora’s refusal to pay royalties on them. The labels are arguing that US copyright legislation should cover these older tracks – Buddy Holly’s widow is one of those agreeing with public statements this week (“These companies’ failure to pay the rock ‘n roll pioneers is an injustice and it needs to change”). Pandora, meanwhile, is arguing right back. “Pandora is confident in its legal position and looks forward to a quick resolution of this matter,” said its spokesperson. The outcome may depend on an existing lawsuit against Sirius XM over the same issue, with a case set to start in mid-May. What would the impact be if Pandora lost? SoundExchange has claimed that Pandora dodged $60m of payments for pre-1972 tracks in 2013 – a year when its content acquisition costs were $342.9m and when it posted a net loss of $40.7m. The stakes are fairly high, then. Expect the politeness of the debate around the lawsuit to be low.

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