Pandora Excludes Non-US Listeners, Cites Nonexistent Licenses

Streaming recommendation service Pandora is now excluding non-US listeners, at least until proper licenses are secured.

The company had previously been servicing non-US listeners by applying a lax registration restriction, though the company is now using IP-based identifiers to limit the outsiders.  “Tonight we began the heartbreaking process of blocking access to Pandora for listeners outside the US,” company founder Tim Westergren explained in a Thursday blog post.  “While the DMCA provides us a blanket license in the US, there is no equivalent in other countries.  After a year of work, only the UK and Canada have shown enough progress for us to feel comfortable allowing continued access.”  Zealous overseas listeners may find other ways to work around the system, though Pandora has erected tighter barriers to prohibit access.

The decision highlights just how complicated the international licensing process can be.  Just recently, the IFPI heralded a pan-European licensing agreement related to streaming recordings.  But the larger legacy, in Europe and elsewhere, has been one of complicated, time-consuming, and expensive clearance processes.  In the past few years, services like iTunes and Napster have successfully planted themselves throughout Europe and Australasia, but only after surviving extreme licensing hurdles.  The latest episode involving Pandora offers another reminder of just how onerous the global licensing effort can be, and provides one explanation for why P2P networks remain so dominant.  It also raises deeper issues related to applicability of country-specific copyright laws to borderless digital platforms like Pandora.