Spotify Removes Content from Several Comedians in Licensing Dispute

( Last week Spotify removed hundreds of comedians’ content after they pushed for a change in the way streaming services pay royalties. Among the comedians dropped by the audio streaming service were John Mulaney, Jim Gaffigan, Tiffany Haddish, and Kevin Hart.

According to the Wall Street Journal, every time a digital service streams their content, comedians are paid as “performers” both through their label or distributor and by digital performance rights organization SoundExchange. However, comics are not paid as writers of their content the way songwriters are paid for the streaming of their music and lyrics.

In negotiations with Spotify and other digital platforms, Spoken Giants, which specializes in helping creators collect royalties for copyrights of spoken-word media including the comedians’ jokes, offered a blanket license for its repertoire of comedy works. But rather than continue negotiations, Spotify chose to remove the individual comedians’ work instead.

Spoken Giants CEO Jim King said on Saturday that they have requested a meeting with Spotify to resolve the situation as soon as possible. King argued that Spotify’s decision to remove the comedians penalized them “in retaliation for collectively requesting the same compensation songwriters receive.”

The comedians signed on to the Spoken Giants-led coalition in hopes of getting paid a royalty on the copyright for jokes they’ve written that get played on the radio or digital audio services like Spotify, SiriusXM, Pandora, and YouTube.

When the negotiations between Spotify and Spoken Giants stalled shortly before Thanksgiving, Spotify emailed the company to let them know it was removing the comedians’ content until an agreement was reached. The decision was slammed by CEO Jim King who argued that Spotify provides these comedians with access to large audiences and having their work removed “is harmful to each individual creator.”

Over the last few years, more artists and creative talent, especially songwriters, have been demanding increased royalties from streaming services. In 2018, the US Copyright Board raised the rates for royalties, however major music and audio streamers including Spotify, Apple, Amazon, Pandora, and Google are fighting to appeal the Board’s royalty increase.