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Pandora’s Antitrust Suit Against Comedy ‘Cartel’ Dismissed

 |  April 6, 2023

A federal judge in Los Angeles dismissed Pandora Media’s antitrust case against a group of comedians who had previously sued the internet radio station for copyright infringement. The group included Lewis Black, members of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, and the estates of Robin Williams and George Carlin.

Pandora, a company owned by SiriusX, has alleged that the comedians colluded with performance rights organizations Spoken Giants and Word Collections Inc to control comedy copyrights and increase royalty fees.

On Thursday, Richard Busch, the attorney for the comedians, stated that Pandora’s accusations aimed to intimidate his clients and their families, and to cause the closure of Word Collections.

Read more: US: SiriusXM to buy Pandora for US$3.5b

Last year, the comedians sued Pandora, claiming they had not been adequately compensated for their streamed material. They requested millions of dollars each in damages.

According to ongoing lawsuits, Pandora’s licenses for sound recordings by comedians do not cover the underlying content. While performing-rights organizations like ASCAP and BMI negotiate music licenses with companies like Pandora, the comedians argue that such groups do not license “literary works” such as spoken-word comedy.

Pandora filed a counter lawsuit, alleging that Word Collections and Spoken Giants collaborated as a comedy cartel to impose inflated streaming royalty rates. Pandora further contended that should the comedians prevail in their lawsuit, this could result in the removal of comedy from Pandora and other streaming platforms.