Robin Williams, George Carlin estates sue Pandora over copyrighted jokes | Inquirer Entertainment

Robin Williams, George Carlin estates sue Pandora over copyrighted jokes

/ 12:24 PM February 08, 2022

Robin Williams

Comedian Robin Williams reacts after receiving the Stand Up Icon Award during the second annual 2012 Comedy Awards in New York April 28, 2012. Image: Reuters/Stephen Chernin

The estates of Robin Williams and George Carlin sued Sirius XM’s Pandora Media Inc. on Monday, Feb. 7, claiming the online music service owed royalties for streaming their material millions of times.

Williams and Carlin’s estates, along with comedians Bill Engvall, Ron White and Andrew Dice Clay, have not received a “fraction of a penny” from the streaming service, they said in five separate federal lawsuits filed in Los Angeles by the same attorney.


The lawsuits asked for damages ranging from over $4 million for Williams’ estate to nearly $13 million for White.


Carlin and Williams were two of the most popular comedians of all time. Carlin died in 2008 and Williams in 2014. Engvall and White are best known for their performances on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, while Clay was a major act in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The lawsuits say the platform’s licenses to the comedians’ recordings do not include their underlying jokes. It stated that while companies often negotiate licenses to music rights with performing-rights organizations like the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, these groups don’t license literary works like spoken-word comedy.

They said Pandora knew it was violating their rights. The company’s filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission from 2011 to 2017 allegedly said that it played spoken-word comedy “absent a specific license from any performing rights association” and could face “significant liability for copyright infringement.”

A rights-management group discussed licensing the works with Pandora starting in 2020, but the streaming service ended the discussions last year, the complaints stated.

Sirius XM bought the platform for $3.5 billion in 2018 to bolster its streaming services against rivals like Spotify and Apple Music. A Sirius spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The comedians’ lawyer declined to comment on the lawsuits. DC



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TAGS: comedians, Copyright, robin williams, SiriusXM

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