You can't download sovereignty

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I waited for Tivo. I waited for iTunes video downloads -- and I'm coping with its still-too-limited content. I'm even scraping by without Amazon Unbox. But THIS is the last straw:

We are deeply, deeply sorry to say that due to licensing constraints, we can no longer allow access to Pandora for listeners located outside of the U.S. We will continue to work diligently to realize the vision of a truly global Pandora, but for the time being we are required to restrict its use. We are very sad to have to do this, but there is no other alternative.

Our friend Adam put us onto Pandora a couple of months ago. It is a deeply groovy, rapidly addictive web radio service that creates custom channels based on your musical preferences. It took just a tiny bit of feedback to get a great mix that plays a great range of mellow working tunes on one channel, a set of showtunes on another channel, and energetic hip-hop on a third. Most magically, each channel settles into that perfect balance of tunes you know and love, and tunes that you are thrilled to discover. For those of us who have ceded control of the radio to our children, this is a wonderful chance to explore musical genres that don't involve farm animals or princesses.

But once again, Canadian sovereignty has done me out of my online content. Part of me (the part that subscribes to Entertainment Weekly) wants us to undertake the digital-era equivalent of those currency schemes in which countries adopt the US dollar instead of going to the trouble of running their own currencies; let's just trade our precious intellectual property freedoms for a broadband hookup that delivers all the goodies available to our southern neighbours, and sign onto all the American I.P. laws so that what works there works here.

The other part of me (the part that subscribes to the New Yorker) is sick of being ingored by media companies that can't be bothered to navigate regulations they haven't written themselves. Yes, it's very convenient to get the laws changed when your mouse is about to go rogue, but sometimes companies have to figure out how to comply with laws instead of just writing new ones.

And the way I see it, there's no time like the present: with the majority of the US media empire stymied by a labour force that has recognized its own interests in digital media rights, their lawyers might as well turn their attention this way. Maybe we can catch their attention if we point out that the writers up here are covered by a different union.

Postscript: I just checked out the Pandora blog post on why they've just blocked the UK, and they make it sound like it isn't a matter of navigating regulatory hurdles (at least in this case) but rather, of needing to negotiate with every MPAA/RIAA-like organization worldwide. But look back further in time to the discussion that accompanied taking Canada offline, and someone points to the paragraph in the Pandora FAQ that bemoans the lack of a DMCA in the rest of the world (or at least, the lack of a DMCA-like provision for streaming music). It sounds like quite a tangle -- as confirmed by Michael Geist's explanation of webcasting law up here.

Comments

Jordan says

February 2, 2008 - 10:55am
Hey Alexandra, If you still need your Pandora fix, allow me to point you to "Global Pandora," http://globalpandora.com/ that does work for now. If that Pandora's box happens to shut as well, try my workaround: Paste the url into Google translator, translate into English from English, and you should be listening in no time.

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