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Photo by Bogomil Mihaylov on Unsplash
Photo by Bogomil Mihaylov on Unsplash

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Funny business: Comedians seek royalties for their IP

Should comedians get paid like musicians and receive royalties from platforms that profit from their material? That's certainly a payment model that one group is championing. According to the Wall Street Journal, a group of comedians, led by global rights administration company, Spoken Giants, wants to be paid royalties when their jokes are played on radio and streaming services such as Spotify and YouTube. 

When a song gets played on such platforms, they have to pay the parties who own the recording of that song (typically the recording label and/or the artist), as well as the parties who created that song. For comedians, however, the situation is quite different. In the United States, they are currently paid "through their label or distributor and digital performance rights organization SoundExchange when their recordings are played on a digital service", the WSJ reports, and they do not receive payment for their creation of the material. 

The streaming revolution has opened up a massive new market for comedy, with such material making up a significant chunk of content on digital platforms. As such, companies like Spoken Giants believe that it is now time to negotiate licensing fees pertaining to the copyright of not just comedy, but also other spoken word content such as podcasts, speeches and lectures.

Predictably, platforms are proving resistant to the idea. "When Spotify signed deals with comedians’ labels and distributors, it did so with the understanding that those deals encompassed all the rights that required a payout," writes the WSJ. "If the new copyrights are to be paid on, Spotify will either have to cough up additional cash to carry that content, or carve out a portion of what it pays to the labels and distributors for the literary right." 

For now, Spotify's negotiations with Spoken Giants have stalled, and the streaming platform has thus removed the work of hundreds of comedians from its service. With more and more creators trying to get a firmer ownership over their intellectual property in this digital age though, it's not at all certain that the streaming platforms will get the last laugh.  

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