Box closed for now on Pandora's Australian radio service

Due to licensing constraints, Pandora can no longer allow access for most listeners located outside of the U.S.

Internet radio station Pandora, hamstrung by international licensing constraints, says it does not know when it will resume streaming services to Australia.

Australian users who have tried to access the site have been blocked from accessing the streaming service. Instead they are greeted with a Pandora message saying it can "no longer allow access to Pandora for most listeners located outside of the U.S".

U.S.-based Pandora stopped streaming to international listeners last month. This decision was brought about by the March verdict of the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB), which oversees sound recording royalties paid by Internet radio services, to almost triple Internet radio's royalty rate.

In 2005 the royalty rate was 7/100 of a US cent per song streamed. The 2010 rate will be 19/100 of a cent per song streamed. Previously, smaller webcasters could calculate royalties as a percentage of revenue. However, that option was voted against by the CRB.

"Since Pandora started, we've been committed to respecting musicians, songwriters and their publishers, and while it's driving us crazy that we have to limit international access for now, we think it's the right thing to do so that we can provide sustainable international access in the future," said Ian Ellison, a spokesperson at Pandora.

"Our hope is that this situation really shows the need for international licensing reform. The lack of a functional, centralized licensing scheme [outside the U.S., which is the only country that has a statutory ("one-stop") licensing scheme for internet radio] is clearly detrimental to both musicians and listeners, but we need to abide by the existing laws until we can change the system or reach individual agreements in each country."

Ellison said the company now has to speak to authorities in Australia and elsewhere, specifically those responsible for performance and mechanical (publishing) royalties.

"In many cases, there will be a national organization for one, but not both, of these types of royalties, which is where this process really gets time-consuming.

Pandora calls itself a music discovery service and is designed to tailor music to a person's musical taste. The service is powered by the Music Genome Project, a project started seven years ago by Pandora founder by Tim Westergren, to capture the musical DNA of songs using a large team of highly-trained musicians.

It offers both a free and paid for service. The free service is accompanied by advertising. International users on the paid service have been issued with a pro-rated refund.

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