Word Collections Seeks Sanctions Over ‘Demonstrably False’ Pandora Counterclaims: The ‘Pleadings Smack of Retribution and Intimidation Tactics’

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As they continue to spearhead copyright infringement lawsuits against Pandora, Word Collections and Spoken Giants are now seeking sanctions against the SiriusXM-owned platform.

Jeff Price’s Word Collections just recently submitted a Rule 11 sanctions motion against the service as well as its law firm, Mayer Brown, whereas Spoken Giants filed a separate Rule 11 motion last week. For background, both the filing organizations, as their names suggest, represent the interests of spoken-word entertainment professionals including stand-up comedians.

Similarly, both entities are suing Pandora for allegedly failing to secure licenses for an array of compositions/literary works (not recordings themselves) behind releases from Bill Engvall, Ron White, Andrew Dice Clay, and several others. May of 2022 saw Pandora levy an antitrust counteraction against Word Collections, and the presiding judge in October of the same year dismissed this countersuit with leave to amend.

Word Collections’ initially mentioned Rule 11 sanctions motion centers on Pandora’s “factually baseless” refiled counterclaims, which the counter-defendant maintains were “made without having conducted a reasonable and competent inquiry” and “were filed in bad faith for an improper purpose.”

“Pandora is pursuing baseless counterclaims against Word Collections and its clients to force them to expend significant time and resources defending those claims in the hope that Word Collections will be forced to abandon its licensing business and the Plaintiff Comedians will drop the lawsuits against Pandora,” the Rule 11 motion spells out. “This is precisely the type of bad faith filing that warrants sanctions.”

Pandora’s amended countercomplaint, though longer than the first filing, is said to consist of three already-dismissed claims and, in place of a “debunked tying claim,” allegations of an unreasonable restraint on trade.

Pushing back against the idea that the Jeff Price-led organization wields substantial market power and is attempting to extract “supracompetitive” royalties by representing key clients and commercially integral works, the counter-defendant points to an alleged lack of new facts and the presence of Spoken Giants.

“And, most critically for the purposes of this motion, Pandora simply cannot allege in good faith that Word Collections has monopoly power in the relevant market while simultaneously alleging that Spoken Giants also has monopoly power in that market,” the legal document reads.

On the conspiracy front, the sanctions-minded counter-defendant maintains that “Pandora’s failure to conduct a reasonable investigation into whether any conspiracy actually existed by not interviewing relevant people or reviewing relevant documents is sanctionable conduct.”

“However, it is clear that Pandora deliberately chose not to heed the Court’s directive and filed the FACC [first amended counterclaim] without conducting any, or any reasonable, investigation or search to determine if it could plead the facts necessary to address the flaws in its conspiracy allegations,” Word Collections’ motion states. “No competent attorney would believe Pandora’s conspiracy claims are well-grounded in fact, and sanctions are warranted.”

Finally, Pandora falsely claimed that it had in March of 2021 been prompted to sign a “‘mandatory all-or-nothing blanket license,’” according to Word Collections, which says that the allegation is “based upon a single alleged communication” with Price.

Moreover, this allegation (and the overarching counteraction) is likewise “based on cherry picked portions” of the March communication, per Word Collections, and “that communication as a whole makes plain that there was no anticompetitive conduct at all.”

“Pandora is using its pleading to try to damage Mr. Price’s reputation in the hopes it might force Word Collections to concede, or at least harm its business,” the document indicates towards its end, before alleging that law firm Mayer Brown itself included “preposterously hyperbolic” allegations about Price “only in an attempt to harm Word Collections under cover of litigation privilege.”