Pop music is full of famous dates: Feb. 9, 1964, when the Beatles first appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Aug. 1, 1981, MTV’s on-air debut.

Another, Feb. 15, 1972 — when federal copyright protection began to apply to recordings — has less recognition. But a recent string of lawsuits argue that licensing issues tied to that date may be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to singers and record labels. If the suits are successful, they could also bring a headache of liability to satellite and Internet radio services.

On Wednesday, the three largest record companies — Sony, Universal and Warner, along with ABKCO, an independent that controls many of the Rolling Stones’ early music rights — sued Sirius XM Radio in a California court, saying that the satellite service used recordings from before 1972 without permission. Even though federal copyright protection does not apply to these recordings, the suits say that they are still covered by state law.

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