In Rainbows, Radiohead, and Copyright

This is an aspect of Radiohead’s In Rainbows release I was not familiar with before reading this otherwise uninteresting (to me) article. In retrospect it makes sense that there was a mini-nightmare with respect to releasing this way and that copyright was a barrier. As the U.S. is finally entering discussions to amend copyright law for the 21st century we’re simultaneously being inundated with things like TPP which seemingly prevent us from making those improvements. Now would be a good time to reach out to you representatives. You can do that here.

[Radiohead] had to ensure no one outside the band contributed any work that might need a writing credit, to contain the rights issues as much as possible. In what was unchartered territory, they had to take the performing rights for In Rainbow away from the Performing Rights Society (PRS), which traditionally owns and administers those rights on behalf of artists – but in a way that did not alert anyone to the plans for In Rainbows’ release. “For online licensing, PRS has rules and rates that you have to abide by,” explains Dyball. “That would have prevented the band from doing their pay-what-you-like model, even though the band wanted to allow for publishing royalties to be paid.”

Dyball went to the society’s board with her pitch, asking that the rights for this one album be taken out of PRS. Although the songs were all written by the band, it was not a guarantee that the PRS board would agree to the band withdrawing their rights. It made it easier that the request came from Radiohead, whose stature was enormous. Consequently, In Rainbows was released as intended.

Source: No surprises: how unexpected album drops became the norm | Music | The Guardian


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