Min's Blog

An Interesting Case: Prince, Radiohead & Youtube

December 16th, 2009 · 2 Comments

The copyright controversy of Youtube is old news, yet this case is “refreshing” to see: the one who requested to remove the videos from Youtube was not the copyright owner. Prince performed Radiohead’s “Creep” at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California. After the performance, he requested to remove the videos shot by the fans, and left a message saying that the record company NPG Records removed the clips and claiming copyright violation. The song’s original artist, Radiohead, found it “hilarious” as even they could not see Princes’ rendition of their own song. According to the Huffington Post, Thom Yorke, Radiohead’s lead singer and principal songwriter, expressed an opposite opinion to Prince’s, “Well, tell him to unblock it. It’s our … song.” Digital ownership remains as a hot topic, and Youtube’s involvement in the controversies is inescapable.

I searched on Youtube for the live version of Prince’s rendition of the song “Creep” and was surprised to find one that survived the “purge”. The concert took place on April 26, 2009, and the video was posed on June 3, 2009, so I speculate that the user uploaded it after the take-down movement died down. Anyways, here is the URL:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMRRgE9qM28

This is quite an interesting twist in digital ownership, as it is the Radiohead who could rightfully request Youtube to take down infringing videos, not someone who performs their song and holds no ownership. I don’t think that just because the rendition of someone else’s song is unique the performer can claim the copyright. Under the Title 17, U.S. Code, copyright holders are defined as “authors of ‘original works of authorship'”. Prince had to personally ask for Radiohead’s permission before performing this song to the public, or else he will face lawsuits himself. Thus, his action was unreasonable. What makes this case funny is that Radiohead and Prince hold opposite views on the issue copyright. Radiohead famously released their album with optional digital pricing and opened a channel on Youtube. Why should Prince care about the copyright if the original artist does not even mind?

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