Thursday, May 3, 2007

Pandora battons down the hatches, Copyright Board delays fee collection

I was hoping to blog about why I think internet radio day has yet to come, but am instead writing about some interesting developments in Internet Radio news today.

Yesterday CNET news reported that the Copyright Payment Board will delay its collection of fees, pushing the date back to July 15th. In the meantime, the SaveNetRadio lobby will be working like gangbusters to change the legislation to create a more level playing field.

I'll be honest, I haven't read the full text of the rulings, so I'm not able to argue the finer points yet. Most of what I read about the legislation is coming from protesters (hey, I'll toss my hat into that crowd). What is clear to me is that traditional radio is being protected, and new net radio is being screwed with prohibitively high royalty fees. What is not clear to me is the reasoning behind this. Is this for political reasons (e.g. traditional radio runs a more effective lobby), or is there evidence that net radio and piracy are inextricably linked, and so net radio must pay the piper? I'd like to get to the bottom of these questions, and find out if the ruling is truly fact-based, or if this is just grandstanding at work. I'm also wondering if there are any loopholes to this ruling: On one side the prices are exorbant. However, on the other side, if I take the concept of internet radio to an extreme, could I not just in theory pay per-listen as opposed to per-song. In other words, instead of paying $0.99 to "buy" an iTunes song (which I'll probably have to buy all over again eventually due to changing formats). I could instead just buy 1,237 listens, or fewer? I have no idea.

Moving, on. Just today, CNET published this report that Pandora is shutting off access to non-US users. Well, users that know how to get around IP geolocation will still be able to access this service, but for the rest of us that don't live in the US of A (I'm in Canada), Pandora will be gone.

This represents the first major casualty of the [delayed] Copyright Payment Board ruling. I'm stunned by this announcement, but also wonder if it's a brave tactic to send a wake-up call to the CPB, that America's ability to compete internationally in the arena of internet radio has been greatly hobbled. There is also evidence of this in Michael Geist's (columnist for The Toronto Star) blog here. Where there's crisis, there's opportunity I guess.

As for Pandora itself. I will miss it. It's a great service, and does what it does very well. I don't really see it as a replacement to traditional DJ-centric radio, but it certainly fills a purpose.

For now though, our best bet is to push on, and try to bring some sanity to the CRB. If you live in the US, I urge you to contact your Member of Congress, and show your support for Internet Radio.

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