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RAIN 11/17: While iTunes negotiated for years, statutory license gave Net radio right to stream Beatles from day one

Posted on: 11/17/2010


Yesterday Apple brought the Beatles’ discography to the iTunes Store after years of delay. And yet, Internet radio services — from AccuRadio to Pandora to AOL Radio — have been playing The Beatles music for years. Why? What allows the latter services to stream the Fab Four without worry, while iTunes has to spend years negotiating?

The answer, writes industry attorney David Oxenford, is found in Internet radio’s statutory license. That license for non-interactive services “requires the copyright holder to make available its sound recordings to non-interactive services, in exchange for the service agreeing to pay a statutory royalty – the royalty now set by the Copyright Royalty Board.”

(Technically, services like Pandora, AccuRadio and many others operate under negotiated settlements — not the statutory license. However, these settlements are very similar to the statutory license in allowing for the use of music.)

On the other side, music download stores (like iTunes) and on-demand services (like Rhapsody), “are not covered by the statutory royalty. That means that the operator of a service that wants to provide listeners the ability to direct the songs that can be played, must first secure the permission of the copyright holders.”

That’s the simple explanation. Oxenford has plenty more details at his Broadcast Law Blog here.


Non-interactive streams (especially simulcasts) haven’t received much love lately. Studies like this one from Bridge Ratings — combined with Ando Media rankingsspotlight simulcasts’ struggles while pureplays, led by the customizable Pandora, pull ahead.

But not so fast, writes analyst and radio “futurologist” James Cridland (pictured left). Non-interactive streams are what people usually want. They want the radio on, not needing interaction, while they perform other tasks. That said, Cridland argues broadcasters should take advantage of new interactive platforms like mobile phones.

“I’m not talking about super-sophisticated stuff here,” he writes (here). “Just my radio knowing that I’m a boy and not a girl; or that I don’t want any sports news, or any Katy Perry, or, god forbid, any Thought for the Day…this is the targeting that advertisers expect from a world with Facebook and Google.”


Google TV devices may be focused on bringing web videos to your living room, but like so many other new TV boxes they also include Internet radio services. So far, Google TV includes Pandora and RadioTime’s TuneIn Radio. Ubergizmo tried out the former and — even though the reviewer was relatively new to Pandora — found it simple and easy to use. You can find the review here.

This is a perfect example of how the TV environment forces complicated streaming music services to be dead-easy. Suddenly folks uninitiated to Internet radio can understand and use a service like Pandora with a remote control from 10 feet away. Find more about web radio on TVs from RAIN here.

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  1. I’ve seen reports that listeners to Pandora never heard Beatles songs (other than covers) on their stations until yesterday. Upon looking at the catalog on their website, I found that there are still albums not on Pandora, such as ‘Yellow Submarine’. So Pandora was the last to put Beatles songs (as done by the Beatles themselves as opposed to covers and remakes). and only added them to the service yesterday once iTunes added the catalog.

    JamesAnderson · Nov 17, 06:44 AM · #

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