Pandora Shuts Down in the U.K.

by Molly Kenney

It’s a time of mourning for this listener and this blog, both big fans of Pandora Internet Radio (for more, please see: "Video Killed the Radiostar, Pandora Brought it Back"). Today, Pandora cuts off its service to the United Kingdom because of failed negotiations over licensing fees, and I have to go back to iTunes.

Pandora and licensing authorities in the U.K. have been negotiating a per-song fee for months, but Pandora founder Tim Westergren announced this week in an e-mail to users in the U.K. that a deal could not be reached. Westergren apologized to listeners and promised continued attempts at compromise with the British government but said the service had to end today. I’m wearing black for the occasion.

This isn’t Pandora’s first international licensing issue. According to the BBC News, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Pandora and other US internet radio services wanting to stream abroad must negotiate licensing deals in individual nations. In May 2007, Pandora cut off service to all listeners outside the U.S. and U.K., citing unfeasibly high costs of licensing in multiple nations. It started tracking IP addresses of users to prevent access by people abroad who entered U.S. zip codes at sign-up, but music continued to stream to England, our ally across the pond. Talks continued, despite the rollout of new net radio broadcasting regulations by the British government that included a per-song rate increase per year until 2010. Now, things have finally fallen apart, and I am left bereft.

My Pandora page is now an apology letter from Tim Westergren, promising to keep up negotiations with the British government and offering to e-mail me if a deal allows service to restart. Thanks, Tim. I appreciate your offer and your service despite the fact the self-important Royal Licensing Commission is denying me and thousands of other loyal listeners. I promise that I will start listening again as soon as I have access. This likely won’t happen until I get back to the U.S., a wonderful country that does not charge me more than $200 to have a TV or watch TV on the internet and does not mercilessly kill free internet radio. This summer, I will joyfully listen to music on Pandora in a country made to look like a utopia for free media by the schmucks here in the U.K.

Until then, stay classy, Pandora. I’ll miss you.

For more on the topic of dangers to internet radio in the U.S., please see:

(The Pandora illustration is by Walter Crane from the 19th Century and is in the public domain; the illustration has no direct connection to Pandora Internet Radio.)

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