Quarterly report pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d)

Commitments and Contingencies

Commitments and Contingencies
3 Months Ended
Mar. 31, 2020
Commitments and Contingencies

(10)   Commitments and Contingencies


In connection with agreements for the sale of assets by the Company or its subsidiaries, the Company may retain liabilities that relate to events occurring prior to its sale, such as tax, environmental, litigation and employment matters. The Company generally indemnifies the purchaser in the event that a third party asserts a claim against the purchaser that relates to a liability retained by the Company. These types of indemnification obligations may extend for a number of years. The Company is unable to estimate the maximum potential liability for these types of indemnification obligations as the sale agreements may not specify a maximum amount and the amounts are dependent upon the outcome of future contingent events, the nature and likelihood of which cannot be determined at this time. Historically, the Company has not made any significant indemnification payments under such agreements and no amount has been accrued in the accompanying condensed consolidated financial statements with respect to these indemnification guarantees.

Employment Contracts

The Atlanta Braves and certain of their players (current and former), coaches and executives have entered into long-term employment contracts whereby such individuals' compensation is guaranteed. Amounts due under guaranteed contracts as of March 31, 2020 aggregated $424 million, which is payable as follows: $165 million in 2020, $97 million in 2021, $42 million in 2022, $33 million in 2023 and $87 million thereafter. These guaranteed amounts may decrease if the 2020 season is cancelled or shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the foregoing amounts, certain players, coaches and executives may earn incentive compensation under the terms of their employment contracts.


The Company has contingent liabilities related to legal and tax proceedings and other matters arising in the ordinary course of business. Although it is reasonably possible the Company may incur losses upon conclusion of such matters, an estimate of any loss or range of loss cannot be made. In the opinion of management, it is expected that amounts, if any, which may be required to satisfy such contingencies will not be material in relation to the accompanying condensed consolidated financial statements.

Pre-1972 Sound Recording Litigation.  On October 2, 2014, Flo & Eddie Inc. filed a class action suit against Pandora in the federal district court for the Central District of California. The complaint alleges a violation of California Civil Code Section 980, unfair competition, misappropriation and conversion in connection with the public performance of sound recordings recorded prior to February 15, 1972 (“pre-1972 recordings”). On December 19, 2014, Pandora filed a motion to strike the complaint pursuant to California’s Anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation ("Anti-SLAPP") statute, which following denial of Pandora’s motion was appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In March 2017, the Ninth Circuit requested certification to the California Supreme Court on the substantive legal questions. The California Supreme Court accepted certification. In May 2019, the California Supreme Court issued an order dismissing consideration of the certified questions on the basis that, following the enactment of the Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act, Pub. L. No. 115-264, 132 Stat. 3676 (2018) (the “MMA”), resolution of the questions posed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was no longer “necessary to . . . settle an important question of law.”

The MMA grants a potential federal preemption defense to the claims asserted in the aforementioned lawsuits. In July 2019, Pandora took steps to avail itself of this preemption defense, including making the required payments under the MMA for certain of its uses of pre-1972 recordings. Based on the federal preemption contained in the MMA (along with other considerations), Pandora asked the Ninth Circuit to order the dismissal of the Flo & Eddie, Inc. v. Pandora Media, Inc. case. On October 17, 2019, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a memorandum disposition concluding that the question of whether the MMA preempts Flo and Eddie's claims challenging Pandora's performance of pre-1972 recordings "depends on various unanswered factual questions" and remanded the case to the District Court for further proceedings.

After Flo & Eddie filed its action in 2014 against Pandora, several other plaintiffs commenced separate actions, both on an individual and class action basis, alleging a variety of violations of common law and state copyright and other statutes arising from allegations that Pandora owed royalties for the public performance of pre-1972 recordings.  Many of these separate actions have been dismissed or are in the process of being dismissed.  Sirius XM Holdings believes that none of the remaining pending actions is likely to have a material adverse effect on Pandora’s business, financial condition or results of operations.

Sirius XM Holdings believes it has substantial defenses to the claims asserted in these actions, and intends to defend these actions vigorously.

Copyright Royalty Board Proceeding to Determine the Rate for Statutory Webcasting.  Pursuant to Sections 112 and 114 of the Copyright Act, the Copyright Royalty Board (the “CRB”) initiated a proceeding in January 2019 to set the rates and terms by which webcasters may perform sound recordings via digital transmission over the internet and make ephemeral reproductions of those recordings during the 2021-2025 rate period under the authority of statutory licenses provided under Sections 112 and 114 of the Copyright Act. Sirius XM Holdings filed a petition to participate in the proceeding on behalf of its Sirius XM and Pandora businesses, as did other webcasters including Google Inc. and the National Association of Broadcasters. SoundExchange, a collective organization that collects and distributes digital performance royalties to artists and copyright holders, represents the various copyright owner participants in the proceeding, including Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group. Because the proceeding focuses on setting statutory rates for non-interactive online music streaming (commonly identified as

“webcasting”), the proceeding will set the rates that Pandora pays for music streaming on its free, ad-supported tier and that Sirius XM pays for streaming on its subscription internet radio service.  This proceeding will not set the rates that Sirius XM Holdings pays for its other music offerings (satellite radio, business establishment services) or that it pays for interactive streaming on the Pandora Plus and Pandora Premium services.

In September 2019, the participants filed written direct statements, including proposed rates and terms for the 2021-2025 period. Sirius XM Holdings and other webcaster participants proposed rates below the existing statutory rates, which for commercial webcasters are currently set at $0.0018 per performance for non-subscription transmissions (such as offered by our Pandora ad-supported business) and $0.0024 per performance for subscription transmissions (such as offered by our Sirius XM internet radio service). SoundExchange has proposed increasing the commercial webcasting rates to $0.0028 per performance for non-subscription transmissions and $0.0031 per performance for subscription transmissions.

In January 2020, the participants filed written rebuttal statements, responding to each other’s proposals. A multi-week hearing was scheduled to begin before the CRB in March 2020, but has been delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Sirius XM Holdings expects the hearing to begin before the CRB sometime this summer.