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Comedy rights agency seeks court sanctions against Pandora in ongoing copyright dispute

By | Published on Monday 30 January 2023


One of the rights agencies representing comedians in the US has asked the courts to sanction Pandora and its lawyers for claims they have made about said agency as part of an ongoing copyright dispute.

Various comedians have sued Pandora through the US courts over allegations it has been streaming their comedy material without all the correct licences in place.

While Pandora has licensing deals with the labels and distributors that provide it with comedy recordings, it has never sought separate licences covering the comedy material contained in those recordings. Obviously with music streaming, services get two sets of licences, one covering recordings and the other covering the songs contained in the recordings.

Each of the comedians that have gone legal on this are working with one of two agencies that have been set up to represent the rights in comedy and other spoken word material, those being Word Collections and Spoken Giants.

In its responses to the lawsuits, Pandora has accused the two rights agencies of anti-competitive conduct, despite there being two competing companies in this space, both of which currently represent a relatively small catalogue of rights.

Neither Word Collections nor Spoken Giants are “benign licensing agents or advocates for comedians’ intellectual property rights”, Pandora’s legal papers stated, instead the two agencies are basically “cartels”.

In October, the judge overseeing the cases involving Word Collections formally rejected those ‘cartel’ claims, although gave Pandora the option to file amended complaints about the rights agencies. Which it then did in November, including against Spoken Giants.

In its new legal filing, Spoken Giants says that Pandora and its legal reps at Mayer Brown filed the amended complaint “based on fundamental misrepresentations of the record, allegations that lack any evidentiary basis, and frivolous legal contentions. This includes several instances where Pandora and Mayer Brown misleadingly quote or paraphrase evidence, while intentionally omitting critical portions of the same evidence that would prove fatal to Pandora’s claims”.

“Such misconduct would warrant sanction in any circumstances”, it goes on, “but sanctions are doubly justified in this case because Pandora and Mayer Brown filed the [amended complaint] after the court dismissed near-identical counterclaims; warned Pandora about the flimsy support for those original counterclaims; and cautioned Pandora that it need not rush to re-plead before developing a factual record”.

“Pandora’s and Mayer Brown’s disregard of the court’s warnings, together with their baseless and misleading allegations, demonstrate the true purpose of the [amended complaint]: to harass and intimidate Spoken Giants and its members, and to needlessly increase the cost of litigation”.

With all that in mind, the filing concludes, “Spoken Giants requests that the court enter an order sanctioning Pandora and Mayer Brown”.