A group representing comedy licenses, including the estates of Robin Williams and George Carlin, won’t have a lawsuit in an ongoing lawsuit accusing them of monopolizing the rights to market “superstar” comics.
A federal judge on April 5 dismissed Pandora’s lawsuit against The Word Collection and Giants, rejecting antitrust arguments from the audio company criticizing the group for its alleged failure to meet viable comedy streaming services. U.S. District Judge Mark Scarsi found that the comedians reasonably agreed to summarily pay studio royalties on top of getting paid a copyright license that has historically been ignored.
The controversy revolves around the animosity between streamers and comedians tending to change the payment landscape. Comedians are making new licensing theories, saying that they should be paid for writing jokes, no different than musicians are paid royalties for composing song lyrics. While comedians may license auctions in their shows, comedians insist that they also be paid royalties for the signatures underlying their written works.
The legal battle began in 2021, when Spotify took down albums from several stand-up comics, including Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart and John Mulaney, amid a conflict over licensing rights. The estates of Williams and Carlin, joined by Louis Black, Andrew Dice Clay, Bill Engvall and Ron White, also sued Pandora, claiming the company and other streaming services did not properly license their services.
The company, in turn, brought an anti-trust dispute against Giants and Word Collections, which was formed in 2020 and requires exclusive partnerships with authors to establish a single price for all goods in its portfolio. In addition to price-fixing, Pandora has alleged that these agreements constitute an anticompetitive conspiracy to target commercial rights to popular comics, since the group allegedly agreed not to license “without outside the cartel,” according to the complaint. Since the Word Collection represents so many different comedians, Pandora said he’s forced to work with them if he wants to offer a “critical mass” of comedy routines. He accused the comedians of passing on copyrights as a way to force them to pay for their licenses. In October Scarsi dismissed the suit but granted leave to amend.
One of the main arguments that Pandora pressed was that the comedian should not claim extra-royalty risk over what has historically been a conspiracy by Giants and Word Collections to engage in price-fixing.
However, we find that this statement is “both contradictory and incomprehensible”, because it is difficult to understand why “surviving” comedians fear the risk of seeking a supercompetitive royalty with the knowledge that they are among the pantheon of “must-haves”; It serves comedians to run a viable comedy. The creation of the word collection in 2020 was targeted as a system of forcing comedians to enter an exclusive association within a short period of time, although they never specifically requested a license for literary works, explaining that comedians have to “like pressures hanging within themselves”. market.”
“Given that there was previously no one dealing with licensing rights in this case, the formation of the Word Collection provides a reasonable and non-conspiratorial explanation for the sudden change in ancient practices,” he wrote.
The judge also concluded that there was no evidence that the group of comedians had monopoly power in the market for streaming rights to comedy routines. Evidence shows that Pandora in 2016 offers more than 35,000 tracks from approximately 3,000 comedians, while Word Collections represents only an estimated thirty comedians.
Part of Pandora’s argument was that the Giants and Spoken Word Collections were able to control the small but financially necessary cadre of the most popular comedians, allowing them to demand inflated prices for their custom licenses. Scarsi said the company does not provide a method of answering “a number of simple, but critically important questions” to recall rights.
“Why is Louis Black such a ‘superstar’ that his custom portfolio is a ‘must have’?” the judge wrote. Should Buress have talent? What about Anna Gadsby? Ali Wong? Finally, the Court cannot be speculated.
Despite arguments made by Giants and Words Collection that Pandora was sanctioned to bring a frivolous lawsuit, the judge declined to do so. When the crowd failed to note the release of the past, Scarsi said, “the only unfortunate argument is that sanctions do not warrant.” Pandora will not be allowed to withdraw its complaint.
“Pandora and its lawyers have decided to file a monopoly claim against them on the merits rather than against the trust, which we believe has clearly meant to scare their customers and families, and put Verba Collections out of business. He didn’t do the job,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Richard Busch in a statement.
Jim King, CEO of Giants Spoken, said the group will “continue to advocate aggressively for our comedian members so that comedians’ spoken word property is preserved and paid for through digital services like Pandora.”
Pandora did not respond to requests for comment.