The estates of Robin Williams and George Carlin have filed a lawsuit against Pandora, claiming the platform has been “willfully” streaming the late comedians’ recorded routines without proper licensing.
According to Rolling Stone, the families of the comics filed the copyright infringement suit on Monday (February 7) alongside related complaints from fellow comedians Andrew Dice Clay, Ron White and Bill Engvall.
The estates claim that the works of both comedians “continue to be exploited, performed, broadcast, and streamed” across Pandora’s platforms without the proper permission and without any “substantive response” to warnings issued by literary agency Word Collections over the past 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,” Carlin’s paperwork states.
Williams’ estate is seeking $4.1million in damages, while Carlin’s is looking for $8.4million.
Rolling Stone reports that the filings allege Pandora improperly offered 27 of Williams’ works through its digital broadcast radio service. The routines in question reportedly derive from the Mrs. Doubtfire actor’s debut album ‘Reality… What A Concept’ and ‘An Evening At The Met’, the latter of which is often regarded one of the best stand-up specials ever released.
The Carlin works that have allegedly been infringed upon come from a number of his many albums, including ‘An Evening With Wally Londo’, ‘You Are All Diseased’, ‘Class Clown’, ‘Classic Gold’, ‘On the Road’, ‘George Carlin On Comedy’, and ‘Toledo Window Box’.
The estates allege that Pandora “gained listeners, subscribers and market share with full knowledge it did not have licenses” to use the comedy acts, and that it has not offered even “a fraction of a penny” in compensation to the trailblazing comics’ heirs.
The filing also states that the alleged infringement helped push Pandora’s valuation higher, positioning it for a $3.5billion sale to Sirius XM in 2018 while at the same time “depriving” the children of the comics their shares of the “legacy” of their fathers.
Pandora spokesman Patrick Reilly told Rolling Stone that the streamer had “no comment” on the lawsuits as of Monday.
Carlin, also known for starring in films such as Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures and Dogma, died on June 22, 2008. Williams, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Good Will Hunting, died August 11, 2014.
Ron White, who is best known for his appearances on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, is seeking nearly $13million from Pandora.
“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, which were filed in federal court in Los Angeles, added.
This isn’t the first time Pandora has found itself at the centre of a copyright row. In 2015, the internet radio service agreed to pay out $90million to settle a lawsuit alleging it failed to pay royalties for songs recorded before 1972.