[JPL] Pandora radio on deathbed?

Jazz Promo Services jazzpromo at earthlink.net
Mon Aug 18 06:54:25 EDT 2008


Pandora radio on deathbed?
The wonderful web radio giant Pandora.com -- and lesser web radio sites, too
-- are reportedly about to be done in by per-song performance royalty rates
doubled last year by a federal panel. Pandora's founder says he'll have to
shut it down soon if the terms can't be changed. Read the whole story in the
Washington Post 
367_pf.html, and wonder who has it in for the free dissemination of music
that we don't know but might like anyway.
Pandora was the topic of an earlier post on this blog, and it's a service I
continue to use, enjoy and promote to friends and family. I don't know of an
easier way to declare one's listening preferences and have Pandora's
friendly Music Genome Project stream complementary sounds -- some known,
some unfamiliar --into my computer as long as I feel like sticking with it.

I'm all for artists (writers included!!!) receiving compensation for the
dissemination of their copyrighted works on the web. Traditional radio pays
no such royalty fees, satellite radio is assessed at a lesser rate. I'm in
an awkward McCain-like position of not understanding the precise economics
or legalisms in this case. Does this involve the competition of web radio
with traditional radio and satellite radio? What is the role of
SoundExchange, the Recording Industry Association of America, iTunes,
Rhapsody, Amazon, any lobbyists and/or competing systems for delivering
music online? 

I wonder who is suffering from the popularity of Pandora. Is it really
underpaid musicians? I haven't heard any of the musicians I know complaining
about this service. A lot of them say they listen to it.

The Washington Post article does not suggest that the American public can do
anything about the apparently imminent disruption of service prompted by our
very own government's Copyright Royalty Board. This is a three-member panel
of judges appointed in 2006 to staggered terms. Here are their
qualifications: Chief Judge James Scott Sledge is

a retired United States Bankruptcy Judge from Alabama . . . [who has] served
for 12 years on the Alabama State Council on the Arts, including two years
as chairman. He was a director of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, an Alabama
advocacy captain for Americans for the Arts, and a director on the regional
Southern Arts Federation.

Judge Stanley Wisniewski holds a Ph.D. in economics from Catholic University
of America and a J.D. from University of Maryland School of Law. . .  [H]e
represented a variety of clients in litigation, arbitration and
administrative proceedings [and] also served on the American Arbitration
Association list of commercial arbitrators.

Judge William J. Roberts began his legal career in the Copyright Office in
1987 . .  served as an attorney advisor in the Copyright General Counsel's
Office and was promoted to senior attorney for compulsory licenses. He was a
Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel attorney for the entire 12-year history
of the panel. Since the inception of the Copyright Royalty Board, Judge
Roberts has served as interim senior attorney. He is an adjunct faculty
member at the George Mason University School of Law where he teaches
copyright law.

These backgrounds of these eminent jurists (as reported on Board's website)
says nothing about their knowledge of or philosophies of the web. Just who
is being protected? How will increased fees be distributed? Who benefits,
overall? California Congressman Howard Berman is trying to broker an
agreement that would relieve web radio from these performance royalty fees
which sites like Pandora say are financially onerous -- and the good
Congressman has an impressive list of successes with initiatives that at
first glance resemble tilting at windmills. Seems like all we citizens can
do is wait, and hope determinations are made in our interests. How often
does that happen? Anyone have a petition to sign? What a'bout a
letter-writing campaign? 

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