Pandora back in box as web radio restricts access

3 May 2007

This evening popular streaming music service Pandora will deny access to all registered users outside the US to comply with US law.

Pandora is subject to Section 14 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and as such manages its copyright issues in the US by this legislation. However, there is no equivalent international law that covers this area and Pandora will have to deal with each music rights holder separately.

If Pandora continues to allow non-US listeners’ access to the music on their site it will be infringing on copyright law. A recent US ruling by the Copyright Royalty Board could also mean that most internet radio stations will be forced to shut down due to high royalty fees they will be obliged to pay for each song played.

The judgment is planned to take effect as of 15 May but will backdate to January of 2006.

In an open letter to Pandora members, the site owners said that “due to international licensing constraints, we are deeply, deeply sorry to say that we must begin proactively preventing access to Pandora’s streaming service for most countries outside of the US”.

“In the US there is a federal statute that provides this licence for all the music streamed on Pandora. Unfortunately, there is no equivalent license outside the US and there is no global licensing organisation to enable us to legitimately offer Pandora around the world.”

Pandora is a personalised internet radio site that recommends and plays new bands and artists based on the individual user’s stated tastes. The user’s favourite music is analysed based on different musical qualities such as tone, rhythm and vocals and a list of similar artists is provided.

An Irish blogger, Ponder, said of Pandora, on his site: “I’ve bought several albums by artists that I heard solely thanks to Pandora. It pretty much stopped my using piracy to source new music. The music companies should be begging Pandora to play their music, not the other way around.”

By Marie Boran