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How To Access Pandora Outside The US

written by: John Lister•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 6/27/2011

The popular music site Pandora was forced to block listeners from outside the US thanks to a row over licensing. We explain how non-US internet users can bypass the restrictions to continue listening to the legal music on offer.

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    What is Pandora?

    Pandora is a streaming music site which aims to provide a ‘personal radio station’ of music to meet your personal tastes. Users can select some favorite songs or artists and the site then plays other similar songs. These are selected through the Music Genome Project, which analyses music through factors such as tone, speed, instruments and styles. Users can then give Tivo-style thumbs up or thumbs down to new songs (which affects songs played in the future) and click on links to buy the relevant album in Amazon or iTunes.

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    Why can’t I use it outside the United States?

    As a legal music site, Pandora follows local licensing laws and pays royalties on each track played to the relevant authorities in the listener’s countries. In May 2007 the site decided it only had sufficient legal agreements to do this in the United Kingdom and the US. In January 2008 the site blocked access in the UK as it could no longer reach an agreement on royalties in that country.

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    How do I get around this restriction?

    Pandora blocks users outside the US by looking at each visitor’s IP address, a string of numbers which identifies an individual computer. The site then blocks access if the address is registered as being outside the US.

    You can get round this problem by using a service which hides your IP address. There are a variety of services which do this, some of them for a fee.

    One free service is Hotspot Shield, which is primarily designed to make it harder for snoopers to intercept your Wi-Fi signal (as they won’t be able to find it through an IP address). The main drawbacks to this service are that it displays an advert at the top of each page while you use the internet, and that it can slow connections to the point that watching streaming video is difficult or impossible. However, it is easy enough to start and stop that you can simply use it when you want to visit Pandora.

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    Is this legal?

    As you’d expect, we at Bright Hub can’t give you legal advice and can’t be responsible for decisions you make. However, to the best of our knowledge, this access method way doesn’t break any laws.

    From an ethical standpoint, using Pandora in this way should not harm musicians. In fact it may benefit them as they should receive royalties through the US system when you listen to songs in this way.

    You should be aware that there’s no guarantee this technique will work either now or in the future. Pandora may at any point change its system for blocking non-US visitors, particularly if it faces legal pressures to do so.

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    Hotspot ShieldPandora (with Hotspot Shield provided ad at top)