18 Feb COMEDIANS SUE STREAMING SERVICE PANDORA FOR UNPAID ROYALTIES
Comedy heavyweights Andrew Dice Clay, Bill Engvall and Ron White and the estates of Robin Williams and George Carlin are suing the streaming service, Pandora, for copyright infringement, claiming that the platform fails to properly license their performances.
The lawsuits claim that the platform pays for the recording of the works, but not for the composition of the underlying material. The claimants argue that they are akin to song writers who earn a separate royalty for publishing rights to the underlying musical and literary work.
Robin Williams’ estate claims that attempts by its agent – Word Collection – to negotiate a licensing agreement in respect of his work have been rebuffed and that his estate has not received ‘a fraction of a penny’ for 16 works offered through its streaming service.
The lawsuit also states that Pandora’s infringement was willful – citing previous filings to the US Security and Exchange Commission in 2010 (prior to its $3.5bn acquisition by SiriusXM in 2018) which acknowledged that spoken word comedy was distributed on its platform ‘absent a specific license from any… performing rights organisation’, nor any licence for the underlying literary works, which could subject the platform to ‘significant liability for copyright infringement’.
The claimants seek payments of up to $150,000 per infringement, the maximum amount of statutory damages in the US, which could see the audio streamer paying out damages to the tune of $41.55m.
These lawsuits follow similar complaints against Spotify, which has since removed the works of notable comedians from its service, including Kevin Hart, Robin Williams, Amy Schumer and Lisa Lampanelli. These claims have the potential to lead to a seismic change in how comedy performers are paid by streaming platforms.
Pandora spokesperson Patrick Reilly told Rolling Stone on Monday that the platform made no comment on the lawsuits.