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Pandora can get the benefit of a 2010 agreement it reached with ASCAP, which provides licenses for the music industry; ASCAP can’t narrow the license even though music labels want to yank new media rights.

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Streaming music service Pandora has prevailed in a court fight with studios that wanted to yank their catalogues from the list of music Pandora is currently allowed to play.

In a ruling handed down in New York this week, a federal judge said an agreement between Pandora and ASCAP, which clears rights for the music industry, remains in force even though major labels like Sony and EMI are trying to withdraw new media rights.

The music labels want to continue to let ASCAP license the music to traditional markets like FM, but want to license their catalogues on an a-la-carte basis to digital music services.

The judge, however, said that a five-year deal that Pandora reached with ASCAP in 2010 still holds, and that Pandora can enjoy the benefits of all the rights it obtained at that time, and that the license can’t be narrowed after the fact.

According to Reuters, the decision could strengthen Pandora’s hand as it squares off with the music industry in a December trial over what constitutes “reasonable” royalties.

The upstart music service is in a bitter political, legal and public relations battle with musicians and the music industry. Pandora claims that it’s at a business disadvantage because it must pay royalties that other radio providers do not, and is lobbying Congress to lower the rates. Bands like Pink Floyd and the music industry, which is reeling from declining CD sales, accuse Pandora of chiseling musicians. For details, see our explainer “Pink Floyd vs Pandora: what the fight’s about.”

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  1. I remember a time in the 1950’s when some were paid for ‘air time’ and was glad to do so…

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