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Don't shed any tears for Pandora

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Guest Opinion So 2008 brings another battle in the war over the value of music.

As an ordinary Pandora member, I received a very disappointing email yesterday morning. But as a rights owner myself (the state51 conspiracy includes about 70 incredibly great indie labels, and does digital licensing and distribution) I found it perhaps a little disingenuous.

Despite offering and agreeing a deal in late 2006 with us, Pandora's position has been not to finalise a deal, but instead to make public statements such as this.

PPL, which collects copyright royalties on behalf of sound recordings owners in the UK, does not represent all the rights Pandora needs, and for many good business reasons, we and many others will not mandate them to do so. Pandora continued broadcasting throughout 2007 while refusing to progress discussions with us.

So - from my perspective they seemed to consider a licence optional, if it could not be delivered by the party they chose and on their own terms. Turning off Pandora in the UK represents not a loss of revenue, but of discovery, which will be made up for by other services - some of which might even compensate the rights holders and creators.

Pandora is of course not alone in attempting to exploit structural deficiencies in the way recording rights are licensed.

Other operators also purport to be offering something of value to artists, while at the same time benefiting from their work and trying to avoid actually paying them.

And I would say that no one should ever assume that a party with no interest in increasing the value of music would pay any more than it absolutely had to in order to use the music. That's commercial reality - and is as it should be.

But I hope people won't be too swayed by Westergren's crocodile tears.

When all artists are competing for attention uncompensated and unrepresented in the drone-sourcing economy, I hope we'll at least consider the fate of an artist. ®

Paul Sanders is a founder of Playlouder MSP, the world's first ISP licensed for music file-sharing. He is also a founder of the state51 conspiracy, an independent digital music distributor, and founder and director of strategy at Consolidated Independent, a digital media technical service provider. Reprinted with permission. © Paul Sanders.

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