In 2007 Radiohead sent a shockwave through the music industry by allowing fans to download their new ‘self-released’ album ‘In Rainbows’ for whatever price they wanted to pay, including nothing. Fast-forward three years and the RIAA and IFPI are sending takedown notices to people who share that album online. What happened?
After sitting out their contact with EMI, Radiohead self-released their latest album ‘In Rainbows’ and gave fans the option to download it for the price they felt comfortable paying. Not only was this one of the best promotional campaigns of the last decade, it also brought in serious money.
Radiohead said that the scheme made more money online than all of their other albums combined. The band was obviously proud that they had bypassed the major labels successfully. In the years that followed the band members lobbied for more rights for artists, and less power for the labels.
Last year, Radiohead and several other well known artists formed a lobby group with the aim of ending the extortion-like practices of record labels and allowing artists to gain more control over their own work. The artists were unhappy with the fact that the labels, represented by lobby groups such as the RIAA and IFPI, push their anti-piracy agenda without consulting the artists they claim to represent.
Going after fans is not the solution to the problems the industry is facing, they argued.
Considering the above, it came as a surprise to us when we found out that the RIAA and IFPI are still taking anti-piracy measures on behalf of Radiohead. Both the RIAA and IFPI have been sending out takedown notices to Google (RIAA, IFPI), urging it to disable blogger accounts and filter search results where Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’ is offered for free. What went wrong here?
Although some people think that the ‘In Rainbows’ album is still available for free, the free offer really only lasted a few months. After that, the revolutionary ‘pay-what-you-want’ model was traded in for traditional licensing schemes with major labels.
In Rainbows was once ‘free’
The download versions of the album are still self-released, but for the physical copies Radiohead teamed up with record labels such as Warner and Sony. Because of these deals, major record labels now have the ‘rights’ to a piece of ‘In Rainbows’ and they are using this power to take down copies that are distributed online without their authorization.
It is of course ironic that an album that was once seen as the next step towards a new business model in the music industry, is now heavily protected by industry anti-piracy bodies. On the other hand, it is doubtful if the takedown requests are actually legitimate because the labels have the rights to physical distribution, not digital.
TorrentFreak contacted a Radiohead representative to discuss RIAA and IFPI practices but they declined to comment. Still, with all the sensible comments the band’s members have made about sharing in the past, we assume that they don’t approve of the tactics employed by the RIAA and IFPI. Or do they?