The estate of George Carlin and Andrew Dice Clay are also filing copyright lawsuits against the streaming service, claiming they don’t actually own the copyrights to play the comedians’ works.
Given that streaming service Spotify has been inundated with terrible headlines lately, they might be happy to see their nearly defeated competitor Pandora taking over the news cycle instead. But they shouldn’t be happy, because the latest lawsuit against Pandora might just be a dry run for a similar lawsuit against Spotify. The Verge reports that Robin Williams’ estate is suing Pandora for copyright infringement, alleging that Pandora doesn’t actually own the rights to Williams’ stand-up albums on the platform.
The estate of the late George Carlin and living comedians Andrew Dice Clay and Bill Engvall are also suing Pandora in parallel lawsuits.
“Pandora did what most goliaths do: it decided it would infringe now to ensure it had this very valuable IP on its platform to stay competitive and face the consequences later” , comic book attorney Richard Busch told The Hollywood Reporter. “Later is now.”
The dispute here is that there are two types of copyright. Consider the song “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell. If I played it on Pandora, she would get a (microscopic) payment because it’s her song. But if I aired the cover version of Amy Grant or Counting Crows, Joni would still get paid because she wrote it. The recording itself and the written material are two separate copyrights, and have been that way since long before streaming music existed.
Now comedians argue the same applies to them. They feel they are due not just for the recording, but for the written comedy material itself.
This all may sound esoteric, but the lawsuit claims Pandora knew this all along and intentionally buried it before Sirius XM bought them out in 2018. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “In financial documents to the Security and Exchange Commission of 2011 to 2017, admitted that he was at risk of losing his comedy content because he did not have licenses from rights organizations to distribute the works, he admitted that he could be subject to significant liability for violation of the law copyright and may no longer be able to operate under the existing licensing regime.
Williams’ estate is seeking $4.1 million in damages, and Carlin’s estate is seeking $8.4 million, according to the Verge.
Related: Spotify says it will add content warnings to podcasts; Joe Rogan offers half apologies [SFist]
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