The estates of Robin Williams and George Carlin say Pandora has been “willfully” streaming the late comedians’ recorded routines without proper licensing or even “a fraction of a penny” in compensation to the trailblazing comics’ heirs.
In new copyright infringement suits filed Monday alongside related complaints from fellow funnymen Andrew Dice Clay, Ron White and Bill Engvall, the estates claim the comedians’ works “continue to be exploited, performed, broadcast, and streamed” across Pandora’s platforms without proper permission and without any “substantive response” to warnings from literary agency Word Collections over the last couple years.
“While Carlin would have been thrilled for his works to live on through valid licenses and payments, he would have seven dirty words to say about Pandora’s actions and willful copyright infringement, no doubt,” the Carlin paperwork states.
The legal actions ask for at least $4.1 million in damages for Williams’s estate and $8.4 million for Carlin’s estate.
According to the filings obtained by Rolling Stone, Pandora improperly offered 27 of Williams’ works through its digital broadcast radio service. The routines derive from Williams’ debut album Reality…What a Concept and A Night At The Met, widely regarded as one of the greatest stand-up specials in history.
The allegedly infringed Carlin works come from his many albums including An Evening with Wally Londo, Class Clown, Classic Gold, George Carlin on Comedy, On the Road, Toledo Window Box, and You Are All Diseased.
The estates allege Pandora “gained listeners, subscribers and market share with full knowledge it did not have licenses” to use the comedy acts. The alleged infringement helped push Pandora’s valuation higher, positioning it for a $3.5 billion sale to Sirius XM in 2018 while at the same time “depriving” the comedians’ children their shares of the “legacy” of their fathers, the filings state.
Pandora spokesman Patrick Reilly said the streamer had “no comment” on the lawsuits as of Monday.
Williams died in 2014 while Carlin died in 2008.
White, who is asking for nearly $13 million with his lawsuit, is known for his appearances on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, which also helped propel Engvall’s career. Clay is a comedian and actor who appeared in 2018’s A Star is Born with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.
“While it is commonplace in the music industry for companies like Pandora to enter into public performance licensing agreements with performance rights organizations like BMI and ASCAP for musical compositions, these entities do not license literary works. Therefore, it was the responsibility of Pandora to seek out the copyright owners and obtain valid public performance licenses,” the lawsuits filed in federal court in Los Angeles state.
Back in 2015, Pandora agreed to pay $90 million to settle a lawsuit alleging it failed to pay royalties for songs recorded before 1972.