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Several comedians pulled off Spotify because streaming giant won’t pay ‘literary rights’ royalties

The punchlines and standup routines of hundreds of comedians have been removed from Spotify after an impasse between the audio streaming company and the performers over royalty payments. 

Tiffany Haddish, John Mulaney, Kevin Hart, Mike Birbiglia, and Jim Gaffigan are among the household-name performers who now have fewer comedy tracks available for streaming on the platform.

The comedians signed with Spoken Giants, a global rights administration company founded in 2019, seeking to be paid royalties not just for their performances, but for the intellectual property in their comedy routines, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

Spoken Giants said that negotiations with Spotify to tackle the issue started during the spring, but that without warning, Spotify removed several albums from famous comedians just before Thanksgiving.

‘@Spotify unilaterally decided to take the content down on the night before Thanksgiving when everyone was about to begin a four-day holiday. Just as we were all about to slip into a food coma.. #StandUpOnSpotify,’ the organization tweeted on December 1.

The comedians signed with Spoken Giants, a global rights administration company founded in 2019, seeking to be paid royalties not just for their performances, but for the intellectual property in their comedy routines

John Mulaney (left) and Jim Gaffigan (right) are among the household name performers who now have fewer comedy tracks available for streaming on the platform. The comedians signed with Spoken Giants, a global rights administration company founded in 2019, seeking to be paid royalties not just for their performances, but for the intellectual property in their comedy routines

Spoken Giants alleged that negotiations with Spotify to tackle the issue started during the Spring, but that without warning, Spotify removed several albums from famous comedians just before Thanksgiving

Spoken Giants alleged that negotiations with Spotify to tackle the issue started during the Spring, but that without warning, Spotify removed several albums from famous comedians just before Thanksgiving

Spoken Giants is now advocating for the entertainers to get paid royalties over copyright for the actual content of their specials on streaming services such as Spotify, SiriusXM, Pandora, and YouTube

Spoken Giants is now advocating for the entertainers to get paid royalties over copyright for the actual content of their specials on streaming services such as Spotify, SiriusXM, Pandora, and YouTube

Spotify said it has paid 'significant amounts of money for the content in question, and would love to continue to do so' but it was necessary to remove the comedy albums until reaching an agreement

Spotify said it has paid ‘significant amounts of money for the content in question, and would love to continue to do so’ but it was necessary to remove the comedy albums until reaching an agreement 

The move also seemed to have taken the comics by surprise, with Birbiglia taking to Twitter after Thanksgiving to inquire about the sudden removal of several albums such as his ‘Two Drink Mike’ special and Mulaney’s ‘New in Town.’

On November 27, he tweeted: ‘Random question: Does anyone know why some of the Comedy Central albums got taken off Spotify? 3 of mine are gone, some of Mulaney’s, one of (Dave) Attell’s, but then some are still there— like (Mitch) Hedberg. Anyone know about any rights things happening behind the scenes with comedy albums?’

Spoken Giants is now advocating for the entertainers to get paid royalties over copyright for the actual content of their specials on streaming services such as Spotify, SiriusXM, Pandora and YouTube.

Comedians are directly paid by their label and digital performance rights organization for their content on digital services, but they are now demanding payment for their jokes.

Currently, they aren’t compensated as writers for their comedy routines.

Spotify might argue that it needs to revisit contracts with their labels in order to pay comedians for what Spoken Giants has called their ‘literary rights.’

‘Spoken Giants wants the jokes written by the comedians it represents to be heard and enjoyed by as many people as possible across as many platforms as possible,’ the organization tweeted on Wednesday.

On November 27, Birbiglia tweeted: 'Random question: Does anyone know why some of the Comedy Central albums got taken off Spotify? 3 of mine are gone, some of Mulaney's, one of Attell's, but then some are still there— like Hedberg. Anyone know about any rights things happening behind the scenes with comedy albums?'

The move also seemed to have taken the comics by surprise, with Birbiglia taking to Twitter after Thanksgiving to inquire about the sudden removal of several albums such as his 'Two Drink Mike' special or Mulaney's 'New in Town

Spotify’s move also seemed to have taken the comics by surprise, with comedian Mike Birbiglia taking to Twitter after Thanksgiving to inquire about the sudden removal of several albums such as his ‘Two Drink Mike’ special (left) or John Mulaney’s ‘New in Town’ (right) 

‘Spoken Giants just wants comedians to be paid for the jokes they write, just like songwriters get paid for the songs they write,’ it added.

Jim King, a former executive at music rights management BMI and current CEO of Spoken Giants, told the Wall Street Journal that the sudden move could prove harmful for artists’ exposure.

‘Spotify does provide entertainers with exposure and access to large audiences. So having their work taken down is harmful to each individual creator,’ King said.

After negotiations started with Spotify, Spoken Giants claimed to have received an email from the streaming giant notifying that all work represented by the organization would be removed until an agreement was reached.

In a statement to the Journal, Spotify said it has paid ‘significant amounts of money for the content in question, and would love to continue to do so.’

'Spoken Giants just wants comedians to be paid for the jokes they write, just like songwriters get paid for the songs they write,' it added.

Comedians such as Tiffany Hadish and Kevin hart have had their work removed from Spotify

‘Spoken Giants just wants comedians to be paid for the jokes they write, just like songwriters get paid for the songs they write,’ the organization tweeted. Comedians such as Tiffany Hadish (left) and Kevin Hart  (right) have had their work removed from Spotify over the dispute 

Although Spoken Giants solely represents comedians at the moment, they plan to also advocate for writers of podcasts, speeches, and lectures in the future, the Journal reported

Although Spoken Giants solely represents comedians at the moment, they plan to also advocate for writers of podcasts, speeches, and lectures in the future, the Journal reported

Spoken Giants argues that although digital streaming services have not been seen traditionally as designated channels where people could access comedy, that is changing and now a sizeable audience streams comedy specials through platforms like Spotify

Spoken Giants argues that although digital streaming services have not been seen traditionally as designated channels where people could access comedy, that is changing and now a sizeable audience streams comedy specials through platforms like Spotify

The statement continued: ‘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.’

King argued that although digital streaming services have not been seen traditionally as designated channels where people could access comedy, that is changing and now a sizeable audience streams comedy specials through platforms like Spotify.

‘There wasn’t much to collect before. Now it’s a completely different world where a Gaffigan or a Mulaney have billions of performances across these platforms,’ King said. ‘It now makes sense for a collective licensing business.’

Although the company solely represents comedians at the moment, they plan to also advocate for writers of podcasts, speeches, and lectures in the future, the Journal reported.

Spoken Giants said on Twitter that the organization is not aware of when the removed comedy content will be back on its service.

‘For now, MILLIONS of fans of great comedy are unable to hear their favorite comedians on Spotify because Spotify refuses to pay comedians for the jokes they write,’ the organization tweeted.

Spoken Giants said on Twitter that the organization is not aware of when the removed comedy content will be back on its service

Spoken Giants said on Twitter that the organization is not aware of when the removed comedy content will be back on its service


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