Spotify has pulled material from hundreds of comedians over a dispute on royalties, with Tiffany Haddish, John Mulaney and Kevin Hart among the many comedians who are now absent from the service.
The purge, which took place on Nov. 24, comes following a new push by comedians to get Spotify and other digital streaming companies to pay them royalties not just as performers, for which they already receive compensation, but also as the writers of the material.
The movement is being led by global rights company Spoken Giants, which is arguing that comedians should receive royalties as writers of the jokes being streamed the same way songwriters receive royalties on music that is streamed.
Spoken Giants was launched last year by former BMI exec Jim King and 800 Pound Gorilla Records co-founders Ryan Bitzer and Damion Greiman and is pushing for more compensation, not just for comedians, but all spoken word artists. The popularity of comedy and other spoken word work has significantly increased over the past decade with the rise of streaming as well as satellite radio networks like SiriusXM that have channels entirely dedicated to comedy.
“Although US copyright law protects spoken word assets, it’s an area where even having a marquee name doesn’t guarantee you’ll be paid what you’re owed,” King said in a statement released upon the company’s launch. “We’re changing that with transparent, collective representation for all in order to strengthen the marketplace in favor of the creator.”
Spoken Giants says in a new statement that it has been in contact with Spotify about increased royalties but did not request the takedown. The work of the affected comedians is still available on platforms like Pandora and SiriusXM, which Spoken Giants is also in contact with.
“With this take-down, individual comedians are now being penalized for collectively requesting the same compensation songwriters receive,” Spoken Giants added. “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.”
TheWrap has reached out to Spotify for further comment, but a spokesperson told CNN that it has paid “significant amounts of money” to stream the stand-up recordings and “would love to continue to do so.”
“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,” Spotify said in a statement.