Pandora is an internet radio
company based in Silicon Valley. It serves the US, Australia
and New Zealand. One of the big focuses for the company in the
next year is to figure out how to expand internationally.
"When you are dealing with music and licensing, depending on
what the regime is, a lot of people will say: 'I think the UK
should be next!’" Nakeena Taylor, an IP lawyer and
compliance expert at Pandora, tells Managing IP. "When it comes
to considering all the regimes and extra costs,
it’s wise to stop and think: does this make
Issues regarding territorial expansion are mainly handled by
Pandora’s strategy and licensing team. Taylor says
her focus is helping product and advertising managers,
engineers and fellow employees to consider their plans from a
"Thinking through that is interesting because
it’s unchartered territory and there is growing
competition," Taylor explains.
"We are giving a lot of information on how to think through
these scenarios without having a lot of information to pull
from. We are learning and looking around us saying: 'Spotify
has this lawsuit coming up, maybe we need to think about how we
do this,’ so we don’t have to go
through that same thing."
Ambiguity in IP law
In addition to ever-increasing competition in music
technology, Taylor predicts "more partnership with the music
"We’re having a much bigger push on policy,"
she says. "There is a lot of talk about updating rules, but
they are never usually in favour of the new up-and-coming
technology. This adds a little bit of pressure."
To illustrate her point, Taylor refers to
a case in 2012. "A user’s listening history
was inadvertently posted and the plaintiff discovered some
obscure law about borrowing and video rental history," she
says. "Does this really apply? You are talking about something
in the sense of VCRs and VHS while trying to talk about a
streaming service that is more of internet radio service!"
She continues: "It was really tortured in the sense of
trying to apply these old laws. The issue was more related to
privacy. Even in talking about how the technology works, it
still does not apply so we are always playing catch-up. At the
same time, as advisors, we are trying to figure out what kind
of claims can be made that might actually outplay of a lot of
these really old laws."
Taylor says this type of issue can make it hard to be able
to give clear advice and manage risk. "There are some risks
that seem so out there but people will still try, because there
is no other law to go to," she says.
Licensing and royalty determination
Taylor highlights a number of legal areas surrounding music
technology that she feels are in need of modification.
"It would be helpful to have
clarity on anything related to royalties so that there is a set
rate and a rate that is fair. Here in the US, we have different
rates for terrestrial radio, streaming, on-demand, depending on
the type of interaction. That’s fine; the problem
is that they change all the time."
For example, the US Copyright Royalty Board
last December announced the per-performance rate for 2016
will increase to $0.0017 for ad-supported streaming, up 21%
from $0.0014 under the present "Pureplay Rate" for 2015.
However, the rate decreased to $0.0022 for subscription
streaming from $0.0025.
Taylor also mentions law surrounding pre-1972 recordings,
looking for the correct rights owners and data mining as
additional challenges of accurate and efficient licensing.
Before becoming a lawyer, Taylor worked in music and
licensing. Taylor suggests a national database of rights
owners: "We need to come up with something that will enable us
to actually get the money to where it’s supposed
to go, so we can start to the change the narrative of musicians
feeling they are not getting their fair share."
She continues: "We have plans to introduce more transparency
of what we pay out and how, for that very reason. We want to
put that pressure on all the stake holders in the industry to
do the same. This is why we need reform."
At the end of 2015, Pandora negotiated a
licensing deal with leading performance rights
organisations ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and
Publishers) and BMI (Broadcast Music Inc. The company agreed to
pay 2.5% revenue to BMI as part of their commitment "to ensure
that music thrives" and "grow the music ecosystem", as
stated by Pandora’s then-chief executive
officer Brian McAndrews.
Recently, the antitrust division of the United States
Department of Justice has received criticism from music
artists, producers and songwriters for its decision to proceed
with plans to introduce 100% music licensing. The decision
comes as a nasty shock and despite strong opposition from the
music community over concerns that the decree will impose
greater depreciation of royalty payments to content owners.
Creative industries and innovation
With an educational foundation in media, culture and
communication, Taylor maintains respect for artists and
"Before going to law school, I knew I wanted to go into the
creative industry," she says. "For me, trade mark, copyright,
media and the creative industry was really interesting." After
taking cross-registered classes in media law, Taylor opted for
a career in IP law.
"I wanted to be on that side. I found a really good medium
between the IP industries and technology industry, mixed with
the business side," she says. "I am excited by these industries
and I know that they cannot exist without IP."
Pandora is mostly recognised for its Music Genome Project
technology in which a team of musicologists listen to all
content on the system and suggest songs for users based on
hundreds of scoring attributes, instead of algorithms. The
exact list of attributes is a
trade secret, but Taylor says it is hard to keep secrets in
such a competitive industry.
"It’s one of those things that might change,
especially when we go into the on-demand area," she says.
"Essentially, we are using those new features and aspects of
the service as ways to attract customers to our services and
stand out from our competitors."
With this considered, Taylor rhetorically asks: "What can
you actually protect?" She responds: "We need to protect the
technique. It is what makes Pandora different. Eventually, we
may also need to protect music playlists."
She adds: "We are having these conversations and
don’t really have the answers right now, but the
future is exciting."
The reluctant lawyer
Despite the fact that she has been in the legal profession
for almost a decade, Taylor says she at times sees herself as a
"I was late. I did not decide that I wanted to be an IP
lawyer until I was in the middle of my degree!" she explains.
"There are so many stereotypes attached to the legal profession
that I never felt that I identified with, but I love this
profession. I feel that the more diversity we get in thought
and perspective, the better."
Outside her role as corporate counsel, Taylor is president
of the Black Women
Lawyers Association of Northern California. Reflecting on
her responsibilities in the IP community, Taylor says: "I rise
to the challenge, but sometimes it takes some nudging from the
network around me."
What drives Taylor in her philanthropic efforts?
"It’s about representation, honestly. Just both
from being a black female and just being a female in technology
and IP; it has its own challenges. You want more people to be
able to say: 'You know what? I can do this!’
That’s really why I try and get involved outside
my main responsibilities at work."
In addition to promoting better representation of women and
underrepresented groups in the legal profession, Taylor is a
champion of diversity within the IP field: "A lot of people
tend to focus on patents and prosecution. There are all these
other roles centred on protecting IP that you
don’t learn about at law school, such as product
counsel. I decided to get out there and show a different
example, a different path and perspective."
She continues: "You have these other pressures. Sometimes
you want to tap out and you start to think maybe this
isn’t the right lifestyle. For me, I do still feel
the pressure but we have got to be present for something to
Taylor : "We need to continue to reach back to make sure
that people who are in the industry, those that are coming in,
and new attorneys are supported. We also need to be able to
reach even further back, whether that is to middle school or
before that to support others early on so that when they get to
this point, they are confident already."