16 May PANDORA RESPONDS TO COMEDIAN COPYRIGHT CLAIM
zoom-in previously reported that various comedy heavyweights were suing streaming giant, Pandora. Comedians Nick Di Paolo, Andrew Dice Clay, Bill Engvall and Ron White, and the estates of Robin Williams and George Carlin, have now consolidated their lawsuits into one. Word Collections, an agency representing the rights of comedians and other spoken word performers, work with all the comedians involved in this dispute. The lawsuit alleges that Pandora has failed to obtain the proper licences in respect of their material streamed on the platform – acquiring rights to the recordings themselves but not the underlying comedy material which would be classed as “literary works”. The lawsuit seeks damages for unpaid royalties for each infringement totaling approximately $41.55m.
Pandora previously acknowledged that its practice of only licensing the comedy recordings, which is at odds with the industry practice in respect of music recordings (for which streaming services obtain both the recording licence and the licence for the underlying songs).
Billboard reports that Pandora has now formally responded to the claim, taking aim at rights agency, Word Collections, writing that “Word Collections’ true business model is not that of a benign licensing agent or an advocate for comedians’ intellectual property rights. It is that of a cartel leader” and that this lawsuit seeks to violate competition law by creating a monopolistic portfolio of comedy rights that would result in the increased cost of streaming content. It highlighted that comedians previously chose to benefit from royalties and the promotion that results from being featured on their platform without complaint, “creating additional demand for their live performances and otherwise benefiting the comedians”.
Pandora has filed a countersuit in the form of an anti-trust action in the California federal court, accusing the comedians of unreasonable restraint of trade, conspiracy to monopolise, monopolisation and attempted monopolisation. Pandora is seeking injunctive relief and treble damages and has demanded a jury trial.
Word Collections’ lawyer Richard Busch told Billboard: “We have seen [the legal filing], we vehemently disagree with it legally and factually, and we will be responding appropriately”.
Whether or not comedians were previously happy (or even aware) that streaming platforms only licensed their recordings, it is clear that there is a growing feeling of resentment towards this practice which could mark a watershed moment for the industry. Therefore, this case is proving to be no joke for not only Pandora but for all streaming services, which will no doubt be closely following its development.