Comedian Lewis Black has brought proceedings in the Los Angeles Federal Court against streaming giant Pandora for breach of copyright, seeking more than $10 million in damages in relation to sixty-eight of his works. Black, who became famous through his appearances on The Daily Show, is the latest comedian to pursue a claim against the platform.

The total claims by comedians now amount to more than $70 million, and include lawsuits by names such as Andrew Dice Clay, Nick Di Paolo and the estates of Robin Williams and George Carlin earlier this year.

The series of lawsuits seek to challenge the compensation model paid by Pandora to comedians and ‘spoken word’ artists. For musical compositions, Pandora pays royalties to the owners of copyright in the sound recording and the underlying written music. However, comedians do not receive the same benefits, and are paid compensation for the recording but not the composition itself.

Spoken Giants, a rights administration company representing hundreds of comics such as Black, is seeking to challenge this anomaly, arguing: ‘It’s the equivalent of saying a license with Columbia Records to stream a Bob Dylan album negates the need to also pay song-writing royalties to him’.

Pandora is the largest digital broadcast and streaming music provider in the US. The lawsuit accuses Pandora of behaving typically of ‘Goliaths’ by deciding to infringe Black’s copyright and ‘deal with the consequences later’. The lawsuit refers to a financial filing document by Pandora in 2017, prior to its acquisition by current parent company SiriusXM, which listed as a ‘liability’ that it streamed comedy without obtaining publishing rights.

If Black and others are successful, the case will have major implications for comedians as rights holders, both on Pandora and other streaming platforms.