RAIN 7/12: EU proposes royalty reform to make it easier for digital music services to operate there

Paul Maloney
July 12, 2012 - 12:25pm

The EU's governing body yesterday introduced legislation designed to strengthen the European digital music market by streamlining how copyright royalties are collected.

Though nation members of the European Union act together on a wide span of issues, each nation has its own set of agencies that administer composition, publishing, sound recording, and mechanical copyrights for music -- 250 collecting societies in the 27 EU member states alone.

The result is that digital music companies (for instance, leading webcaster Pandora) are forced to negotiate individual agreements with each of these bodies for each country in which they'd like to operate. In the end, for most operators, it's too complex and expensive, and so instead they simply block listening in countries with which they have not forged agreements (and why Pandora isn't legally available in Europe). [See our related coverage about Pandora in Australia and New Zealand here.]

The current situation, the European Commission says, limits consumers' choices, hurts those who hold music copyrights, and promotes unauthorized music sharing. Though the Commission passed legislation in 2008 for "pan-European" licenses and to break down the national barriers it felt held back the growth of digital music, it was ineffective. 

Read more in The New York Times here.

Michael Schmitt
July 12, 2012 - 12:25pm

Pandora in Australia and New ZealandPandora in late June tentatively opened its doors to users in Australia and New Zealand. Dubbed a "beta launch" by founder Tim Westergren, the expansion for now only includes Pandora's website -- not its mobile apps. Additionally, Australians and New Zealanders won't be subject to advertisements...for now.

"Our focus is to have conversations with those listeners to understand and get their feedback about the service," said CEO Joe Kennedy.

Pandora closed access to most international users in 2007 due to licensing issues. The new international expansion may be "aimed at luring new users while allaying investor concerns that it may struggle to grow outside the U.S.," reports Bloomberg Businessweek

"You can’t imagine how delighted we are to be able to start streaming Pandora into Australia," said Westergren.

You can find more coverage from Bloomberg Businessweek here and The Register here.

Michael Schmitt
July 12, 2012 - 12:25pm

Podcasts iOS appLast week, Apple launched its own dedicated iOS podcasts app. Observers hoped the move -- bringing podcasts out of relative obscurity buried in the "Music" app -- would "increase the importance of podcasts" (RAIN coverage here).

After a week of usage, Ars Technica writer Iljitsch van Beijnum has posted his thoughts on the app, which he sees as "surprisingly immature." Besides random crashes and other glitches, core functionality -- like removing podcast episodes -- doesn't work.

And rather than putting podcasts in the spotlight, van Beijnum fears "lots of people aren't going to discover podcasts organically" now that podcasts are not a default feature of iOS (rather, they've been moved into a separate, optional app).

That said, "we have reason to hope that an update could turn this into a great app," writes van Beijnum. He goes on to list a number of needed tweaks and features -- including iCloud support.

You can find the full Ars Technica article here.

Michael Schmitt
July 12, 2012 - 12:25pm

Wi-Fi payphonesA select group of New York City payphones will soon become free Wi-Fi hotspots. "The hotspots are initially coming to ten payphones in three of the boroughs and will be open to the public to access for free," reports GigaOM (here).

"Users just agree to the terms, visit the city’s tourism website and then they’re up and running... The effort is part of the city’s larger goal of providing more digital inclusion for residents."

We'll leave you to bask in the delicious irony of new smartphones tethering to a data connection transmitted from a payphone.