As we’ve seen in the long battle between musicians and Spotify, the streaming app thinks artists have a lot of gall to ask for their share of the money earned from their work. The fight for fair royalty payments has now extended to comics who, for the first time, have a lot to gain in revenue from streaming. However, in a stalemate, Spotify has opted to remove the popular work of hundreds of comedians from the platform.
Some of those whose work has been removed include John Mulaney, Jim Gaffigan, Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart and the late Robin Williams. Global rights administration company Spoken Giants, has been spearheading the effort to get these comedians a fair share of the profit, but negotiations came to a halt when their work was wiped on November 24.
“Unfortunately, Spotify removed the work of individual comedians rather than continue to negotiate,” Spoken Giants CEO Jim King tells CNN.
The end goal for Spoken Giants and the comedians it represents is to procure royalties for underlying composition copyrights of spoken-word media (or literary rights) the same way songwriters are paid for use of their music and lyrics. The company is not only working with Spotify, but other radio and digital service providers SiriusXM, Pandora, and YouTube.
“With this take-down, individual comedians are now being penalized for collectively requesting the same compensation songwriters receive,” King says. “After Spotify removed our members’ work, we reached out but have not received a response. We have now requested an immediate meeting to resolve this situation.”
On Spotify, comedians are paid as performers through their label or distributor. They also currently receive digital performance royalties from SoundExchange. In a statement to Gizmodo, Spotify says the issue stems from Spoken Giants is debating the rights of various licensors.
“Spotify has paid significant amounts of money for the content in question, and would love to continue to do so,” a Spotify spokesperson says. “However, given that Spoken Giants is disputing what rights various licensors have, it’s imperative that the labels that distribute this content, Spotify and Spoken Giants come together to resolve this issue to ensure this content remains available to fans around the globe.”
Ultimately, paying comedians the literary rights will require Spotify to shell out more money for a comic’s work directly from the company, or be taken from a portion of what’s given to labels and distributors for the literary right. Considering how little progress has been made concerning royalty shares for musicians, this standoff could endure for a while.