Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Pandora backlash - or, a coloured world view

Over the last couple of days, there have been two posts on the Empoprise-MU blog regarding Pandora and its lobbying efforts on behalf of H.R. 7084. This is in addition to a number of posts that appeared on my mrontemp blog.

Other people have been writing about Pandora and H.R.7084 also, and while many of them are urging support for Pandora's efforts, there are some people with different views.

Take, for example, Duncan Riley of The Inquisitr:

I’ve been strong in my criticisms of attempts to kill of the web radio industry in the United States in the past, and I fully support this bill, both as something important to the future of digital media, and as a daily internet radio listener myself. I also [used] to like Pandora, and as the first great automatic music recommendations service, I spent many hours on the site.

So why did Riley quit using Pandora? Because he lives in Australia, where Pandora is now blocked.

And yet passage of this bill means nothing changes for the entire world outside of the United States for Pandora, because despite every single competitor I’m aware of being free to use outside of the United States, this is all I see on the site today...

Riley then reproduces a message from Pandora, which basically states that "there is no other alternative" but to disallow Riley to access the site.

Apparently Pandora has different global licensing constraints than do other sites…and who am I to argue. However other sites battle to not only save webcasting in the United States, they also battle to save webcasting for a global audience. Pandora on the other hand remains georetarded.

Riley makes another point:

[T]he overboard alarmism by Pandora leading up to this vote doesn’t help their case either. Remember: no dissent, the bill passed unanimously, when Pandora cried wolf. There needs to be a concerted lobbying effort and this legislation needs to pass, but from what I’ve seen, Pandora perhaps shouldn’t be leading the charge, because you need to manage your grassroots carefully, where as Pandora just used up a whole lot of good will on the first battle, without yet winning the war.

But Riley is not the only person who is NOT running out in the streets to protest against the evil NAB. Steven Hodson wrote a post entitled Well Colour Me Unimpressed - Pandora Gets Another Stay. And no, Hodson is not illiterate - when you live in Canada, you talk about "colour" with a u.

Pandora is a great service; and one that the other 95% of the world would love to use as well but that isn’t able to. I; and the rest of the world outside of the US, loved using Pandora up until it was chopped off at the knees by the music industry as they used copyright laws and their royalty system like a chainsaw. Even though this latest call to arms was due to yet another trade association trying to kill off any competition it doesn’t change the fact that this Pandora publicity is only a minor part of a much larger issue.

In addition to noting that this doesn't make any difference outside of the United States, Hodson also questions whether it will make any difference within the U.S. itself:

Well big whoop-di-doo - just because you have been given a right to negotiate doesn’t mean that the bloodsuckers on the other side of the table give a shit about your offers or that they will even come to the table. As with all things to do with the music labels and the RIAA (and now the NAB) they don’t care about what the webcasters want. They only care about how much money they can suck from you even if it means you going bankrupt....

[T]his doesn’t change the fact that the music labels and the RIAA would be just as happy to negotiate webcasters out of existence and royalty rates are their best weapon.

Hodson may be wrong on this point - H.R. 7084 proponents claim that all of the parties involved in the negotiation supported the bill:

* In March 2007, the Copyright Royalty Board (the government body that determines royalty rates for the use of music over Internet radio services) issued a rate decision. Since then, DiMA, NPR, RIAA and SoundExchange have been negotiating alternative royalty rates that will address unique business and political circumstances.

* In the last several weeks the negotiations have made progress. Because Internet radio royalties operate under a government license, Congressional authority is required to allow any negotiated settlement to take effect.

* Accordingly, HR 7084 authorizes SoundExchange, on behalf of copyright owners and performers, to negotiate an alternative royalty agreement before the end of the year with DiMA and NPR, and any other Internet radio service.

Although not explicitly stated here, the implication is that SoundExchange and RIAA supported H.R. 7084, and that NAB was the only opponent.

Although if the Senate passes the bill, Bush signs it, and the parties reach an agreement - Riley and Hodson are still out of luck until the record labels extend the same rights to Pandora that they have extended to, say, and AOL Music - which happen to be major media-owned.
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