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Pink Floyd members reunite to slam Pandora

The company's campaign in support of an Internet radio bill is dishonest, the rock group says

Call it another brick in the wall. The surviving members of Pink Floyd have gotten together to slam Pandora for its support of an Internet radio bill that the rockers say would lead to an 85 percent pay cut for musicians.

"It's a matter of principle for us," they wrote in an editorial published over the weekend in the USA Today newspaper. "We hope that many online and mobile music services can give fans and artists the music they want, when they want it, at price points that work. But those same services should fairly pay the artists and creators who make the music at the core of their businesses."

The editorial was signed by Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason -- the surviving members of the band. Vocalist Syd Barrett died in 2006 and keyboardist Richard Wright died in 2008.

The bill, called the Internet Radio Fairness Act, has been promoted as a way to fix inconsistencies in the royalty rates paid by Internet radio providers. The legislation was put on hold following its introduction before Congress last year but is expected to be revived in this year's session.

With each new form of radio, including cable and satellite, legislation has been passed to address royalty rates for the new medium. But proponents of the act say the law hasn't yet caught up with Internet radio, putting it at a disadvantage.

The result, Pandora says on its website, is that while satellite firms pay 7.5 percent of their revenue in royalties, and cable firms pay 15 percent, an online service like Pandora pays more than 50 percent of its revenue in royalties.

Proponents for musicians say lowering royalty rates for Pandora isn't the answer. Groups such as the musicFirst coalition, which represents artists, say the Internet Radio Fairness Act would slash the royalty rates artists receive from digital radio by 85 percent.

Instead, they propose ending what they see as the subsidies awarded to other types of radio. The Pink Floyd members said they would work with Pandora "to end AM/FM's radio exemption from paying any musician royalties -- a loophole that hurts artists and digital radio alike." But the legislation backed by Pandora amounts to a royalty rip-off, they say.

The emails Pandora is sending to artists across the country to drum up support for the bill are dishonest, the band says, because they never mention the 85 percent pay cut Pandora is asking for from Congress.

The letters, such as this one from Pandora founder Tim Westergren posted online, are intended to incorporate more artists' voices into the policy making process.

"This letter doesn't say anything about an 85 percent pay cut," the band said. "That would probably turn off most musicians who might consider signing on."

Pandora's petition for supporting the Internet Radio Fairness Act is the wrong way to go, they argued.

"The open letter to Pandora that we signed last year said, 'Let's work this out as partners,' and that's what we should do," the band said. "Tricking artists into signing a confusing petition without explaining what they are really being asked to support only poisons the well."

Pandora could not be immediately reached for comment.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com


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