Part 1 of 3: Pandora in Canada – The History

This will be the first part of a three part post on Pandora in Canada.  The three parts will be as follows:

  1. The History (or how we got to this sad state 🙁 )
  2. Technical Background (or how Pandora blocks us)
  3. A step-by-step workaround (or a purely technical and not condoned by the author path to having Pandora work in Canada)
The History

Pandora is a website which falls under the classification of “internet radio”.  I for one, however, believe that this title falls far short of doing the site justice.  It is more like having a good friend how spends their time getting to know all the cool music out there who will play stuff you like based on what you tell them.  This is accomplished by using the data from the Music Genome Project (of which Pandora is a part).  This project, started in January 2000, is an attempt to classify all kinds of music by certain basic criteria in a more fundamental way than they typical broad classification of genres.  This information is then used by the Pandora website to play a stream of music which they believe will suit your tastes based on examples artists or songs you provide. The first users were able to start experiencing Pandora in the summer of 2005 when they first launched their private Alpha,  and they opened to the general public at the end of that summer allowing the rest of us to join in.  Those of us who live out of the USA experienced a brief (and in my opinion great) opportunity to use this service, until on May 3rd, 2007 Pandora started blocking non-US users by their IP addresses.  Those of us in Canada experienced a short respite to this block, but unfortunately followed suit on May 16th when Canada was added to the list of blocked addresses.  From that day forth any Canada users visiting are now greeted by an incredibly frustrating, if apologetic, notice informing us that we are not eligible for the service.

You might be wondering why Pandora would want to block Canada (not to mention the rest of the world).  I am by no means an expert on music licensing so I won’t attempt an in depth explanation.  My high level understanding is that the licensing for music is different in Canada and the US, and that Pandora was not able to secure the rights to stream music in Canada.  (Pandora’s statement is that there are currently no provisions in Canada to acquire licensing rights for internet streaming)   It is quite disappointing that this was the case two and a half years ago, and that this is still the case today.

This brings us to the unfortunate current state, where any users who are not located in the US are no longer able to partake of this service.  In the next section I will be discussing the technical method that Pandora is currently using to limit its accessibility.


Side Note: I should note that as of July 2009 Pandora started limiting its free users to 40 hours of music per month, which can be extended to an unlimited stream by paying 99 cents a month.  Inevitably many users broke out in outrage over this announcement, but I personally consider this a reasonable price to pay for such a service.