Skynet Law: 15 downloaders on third strike

The first judgments under the controversial 'SkyNet' law that is designed to help stamp out music piracy are edging closer as the wraps come off another service, Pandora, that lets people listen to music legally online.

A Justice Ministry spokesman said the Recording Industry Association, which represents major record labels, had asked the tribunal to make awards against 15 people who the association has accused of illegally accessing music over file-sharing networks.

All 15 had received their "third strike" and could be liable for penalties running into thousands of dollars.

In four of the cases, the tribunal now had all the information it needed to begin its deliberations, the spokesman said, though no date has yet been scheduled for those to start.

None had requested to appear in front of the tribunal in person and they had instead asked for their cases to be judged on the written evidence "so they are ready to proceed and have a decision made," the spokesman said.

United States streaming radio company Pandora began marketing its service in New Zealand and Australia today.

The service, which has been available in New Zealand for a few weeks, lets people listen to "channels" that are spliced and diced from a catalogue of more than a million songs by more than 100,000 bands and artists. Channels can be geared around individual artists and songs, as well as genres.

Pandora carries advertisements, but these can be skipped by paying a $4.85 monthly subscription fee.

Founder Tim Westergren, who is in Auckland to promote the service, said it differed from "all-you-eat" music streaming services such as Rdio and Spotify in that Pandora listeners could not search for and play specific tracks "on demand".

"We are more of a radio product that lets you discover new stuff," he said.

Westergren said because of that, it could licence music from record labels more cheaply than the likes of Spotify and Rdio which substituted for other ways of buying music, and offer an advertisement-supported service that was free to listeners.

"We are not allowed to play a station full of Bruce Springsteen or Kylie Minogue."

Pandora expects to post revenues of US$400 million this year, with about 90 per cent of that coming from advertisements and the rest from subscription income.

This was the first time Pandora had offered its service outside of the United States where it claims 175 million listeners and more than a million paying subscribers, Westergren said. The service for Australia and New Zealand is being hosted in Auckland by internet provider Voyager.

Pandora works out how to populate its channels by analysing as many as 450 attributes for each song, he said.

"It is like 'musical DNA'. That is the connective tissue that we use to pull songs together for playlists."

Spotify introduced a new feature to its streaming music service last week that lets subscribers "follow" famous or musically influential people, including United States president Barack Obama and Kiwi artists Ruby Frost and Dane Rumble, and hear the playlists they had created.

The Dominion Post