George Lopez is the latest comedian to sue Pandora for unpaid royalties
The lawsuits are piling up for Pandora, which has been accused by comedians, including Lewis Black and Andrew Dice Clay, of streaming their works without the proper license. Now, George Lopez is joining the fray, seeking $5.5 million from the streamer.
Lopez filed suit on Tuesday, claiming that Pandora streamed two of his comedy albums, Right Now Right Now and Team Leader, without paying him royalties or obtaining the proper licenses from him. “[Pandora] decided it would infringe now to ensure it had this very valuable intellectual property on its platform to remain competitive, and deal with the consequences later,” the filing said. “Later is now.” A representative for Pandora’s parent company, SiriusXM, did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Like in the previous suits, Lopez’s lawyer (Richard Busch, who represents the other plaintiffs) argues that his work is entitled to two copyrights — one for the recording and one for the underlying literary work. The latter, known as publishing rights, is the norm with music but new for spoken-word works. The resolution of these cases could determine whether comedy and potentially other types of spoken-word content, like podcasting, are eligible for the same type of copyright.
The ongoing fight has prompted the streamers to play defense. Spotify (which is not currently being sued over the matter) removed comedy albums by the likes of John Mulaney and Tiffany Haddish after negotiations went south. Pandora, which is particularly vulnerable because of an ill-advised financial filing that openly said it streams comedy without a publishing license, is reportedly compelling comedians to waive their publishing rights altogether.
It’s a messy situation. Streamers obviously don’t want to have to pay royalties for spoken-word content, which has generally been cheaper for them to maintain than music. Comedians, meanwhile, want their legal and monetary due for their works but also rely on the promotion they get from streaming to get people to their shows. A resolution is likely a far way off, and industry heavyweights like George Lopez joining the fight will only further turn up the heat.