BREAKING: Pandora Runs to the Government to Screw Songwriters Again

Good news: Pandora is scheduled to come to the stock market with a “secondary offering”, meaning the company is essentially having a second IPO. According to the Wall Street Journal:

The Internet radio company and its venture-capital backer Crosslink Capital Inc. are slated to offer 14 million shares late Thursday[, i.e., tomorrow], a stake that was worth $336 million when it was announced after Monday’s close.

So music is good business, right? It sure is–for everyone but the songwriters and artists.

In case any songwriter wondered, Pandora has more money than you and they intend to use it to screw you as hard as they possibly can to enrich themselves.

Today Pandora won a truly Pandora-style “victory” in the ASCAP rate court by getting a federal judge to rule that Pandora–a monopolist in webcasting–can use the out of date ASCAP consent decree to force songwriters to license to them.

And make no mistake–this is a very important case to Pandora because the one way that songwriters have of getting out of the trap inside Pandora’s house of cards is to say no and refuse to license to Pandora. And “no” is the one thing that Pandora can’t have you say because their only product is music. The government granted them an effective monopoly on webcasting and Pandora intends to keep it that way.



2 thoughts on “BREAKING: Pandora Runs to the Government to Screw Songwriters Again

  1. Historically speaking, it goes back to the difference between the BSD and the GPL software licenses. Licensing software with the BSD only had one restriction – anyone could use your code as long as they gave attribution. Licensing with the GPL only had one restriction – anyone could use your code as long as they made derivative works freely available under the GPL.

    Most that release code under the BSD really don’t pay much attention to the attribution restriction. BSD allows you to use the code any way you want. If you spend some time adding value to the code, they don’t care whether you release your code or keep it proprietary. Those that issue code under the GPL do care very much about enforcing their CopyLeft. Once you use GPL code, you must release any changes and enhancements to the code under the GPL. For this reason, the GPL is often considered to be viral in that all use of GPL code must also be GPL code. There are justifications for both types of licenses in the software community. The reason for the GPL is that the corporations were taking works from the community and not giving their improvements back to the community (open source vs. closed source).

    As an aside, there was one major loophole in the original GPL. Specifically, if you made improvements to the software but did not release it for distribution, then you had no requirement to release your source code enhancements. The main effect of this is that corporations that make money by offering web services over the internet are under no obligation to make their code public even if they use GPL code to build their solution. This loophole is responsible for corporations like Google making their money as they built their software infrastructure using GPL code but they do not release major parts of the enhancements they made to the code. There is an updated GPL that addresses this, but it’s a later version and very few have used it. Bottom line is that Google directly benefits from GPL code but they can keep their changes proprietary and thus have a monopoly over their code enhancements.

    All that said, most of the considerations if the software and hardware world are not really applicable to the concept of licensing expression.

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