Rights & Wrongs 2: Pandora binned

This one’s definitely a ‘Wrong’.

Pandora, the internet radio service from the ‘music gemone project’ has had to call time on its UK service.

Citing irrevocable issues with the license structure, it simply cannot afford to continue. UK legislation states that broadcasters pay for each station they run. Because Pandora effectively streams an individual station to each listener, they would have to pay for a separate license for each and every user.

That’ going to be a difficult bill to foot when you’ve struggled to create a sustainable business model or find sufficient funding.

This is a genuinely sad state of affairs. Pandora’s a hugely satisfying, entertaining and enlightening service. From the outset, they tried to work with copyright holders but it seems it just wasn’t feasible.   

Founder, Tim Westergren, sent the following email earlier today. It continues to operate in the US and we hope that, in time, we’ll see changes to legislation which will allow it to resume in the UK. 

As you probably know, in July of 2007 we had to block usage of Pandora outside the U.S. because of the lack of a viable license structure for Internet radio streaming in other countries. It was a terrible day. We did however hold out some hope that a solution might exist for the UK, so we left it unblocked as we worked diligently with the rights organizations to negotiate an economically workable license fee. After over a year of trying, this has proved impossible. Both the PPL (which represents the record labels) and the MCPS/PRS Alliance (which represents music publishers) have demanded per track performance minima rates which are far too high to allow ad supported radio to operate and so, hugely disappointing and depressing to us as it is, we have to block the last territory outside of the US.
Based upon the IP address from which you recently visited Pandora, it appears that you are listening from the UK. If you are, in fact, listening from the US, and are denied access from Pandora on or after January 15th please contact Pandora Support: pandora-support@pandora.com.
It continues to astound me and the rest of the team here that the industry is not working more constructively to support the growth of services that introduce listeners to new music and that are totally supportive of paying fair royalties to the creators of music. I don’t often say such things, but the course being charted by the labels and publishers and their representative organizations is nothing short of disastrous for artists whom they purport to represent – and by that I mean both well known and indie artists. The only consequence of failing to support companies like Pandora that are attempting to build a sustainable radio business for the future will be the continued explosion of piracy, the continued constriction of opportunities for working musicians, and a worsening drought of new music for fans. As a former working musician myself, I find it very troubling.
We have been told to sign these totally unworkable license rates or switch off, non-negotiable…so that is what we are doing. Streaming illegally is just not in our DNA, and we have to take the threats of legal action seriously. Lest you think this is solely an international problem, you should know that we are also fighting for our survival here in the US, in the face of a crushing increase in web radio royalty rates, which if left unchanged, would mean the end of Pandora.
We know what an epicenter of musical creativity and fan support the UK has always been, which makes the prospect of not being able to launch there and having to block our first listeners all the more upsetting for us.
We know there is a lot of support from listeners and artists in the UK for Pandora and remain hopeful that at some point we’ll get beyond this. We’re going to keep fighting for a fair and workable rate structure that will allow us to bring Pandora back to you. We’ll be sure to let you know if Pandora becomes available in the UK. There may well come a day when we need to make a direct appeal for your support to move for governmental intervention as we have in the US. In the meantime, we have no choice but to turn off service to the UK.
Pandora will stop streaming to the UK as of January 15th, 2008.
Again, on behalf of all of us at Pandora, I’m very, very sorry.


Rights & Wrongs 1: Copying CD’s made legal, world keeps turning

Intellectual property minister, Lord Triesman, has presented a proposal to legalize the ripping and re-burning of CDs to a home computer (nice!) 

Acknowledging the currently illegal – but commonplace – practice of ripping CDs, Lord Triesman has recommended the laws be changed to ‘keep up with the times’ (nice spin!)

According the BBC, the changes would apply only to people copying music for personal use – meaning multiple copying and internet file-sharing would still be banned… owners would not be allowed to sell or give away their original discs once they have had made a copy.(riiiiiiight!)

The BPI has supported the move as a means of clarifying the law for consumers but, as ever, warned that the changes should not damage the rights of record companies. (okay)

Let’s be clear. This is the adaptation of existing laws which date back 20 years, designed to prevent the misuse of cassette and VHS tapes. The change in the law merely shows that legislation cannot handle current practice – it’s simply folded to consumer demand.

Instead of prosecuting the individuals ripping the CDs, the authorities will now chase those distributing and sharing online – an equally futile task, only marginally more enforceable.

This move will simply fuel the decline of the record labels. With artists everywhere recognising they can survive quite happily without paying their 12.5% to EMI et al. The money’s to be made from touring and merchandise, not CD sales; artists can distribute albums online at a fraction of the cost and cut out the thrid party costs. The move to legalise CD ripping effectively removes the last leg the labels had to stand on. 

Read the rest at the FT, after the jump