The following is all over the news today: Prince licensed and sang Radiohead’s “Creep” at the Coachella festival. An unauthorized fan recorded it, posted it to YouTube, and Prince’s label had it taken down under the DMCA. Radiohead disagrees with the take down and say “Well, tell him to unblock it. It’s our… song.”
Well, yes and no. Radiohead quite possibly own the song (usually major labels own or co-own the music). However, the performance belongs to Prince. He has every right to bar professional photographers or fans from recording/snapping/posting his performance, as the Coachella festival is a private event that he controls. Radiohead, YouTube, and the fans, have absolutely nothing on this. It is up to Prince to allow this performance to be public or not — and there is even a case where he might not even have this right at all, if his contract for the song doesn’t specifically grant full broadcasting rights to Prince. So basically, even if Prince has or has not the right to himself post an audio/video of his performance online, he has the law on his side when he takes down other’s videos of his performance. Because his performance, that’s 100% his, he controls it, and it’s copyrightable. Therefore, this take-down request was NOT a DMCA abuse, as some people wrote online.
Now, of course, this is how the law is. That doesn’t mean that the whole of copyright law is nice or adjusted for modern times. I personally find Prince to be a jerk. I never liked him, even when I first heard of him in the early ’80s. I much prefer Robert Downey Jr. I think. Yeah.
UPDATE: Radiohead should feel like asses right now. “Creep” is NOT their song. Radiohead wrote and performed the song, but both the original recording performance and the copyright of the song belongs to EMI. In other words, like I said above that it’s usual with major labels, that was “work for hire” that they did, and they have ZERO say in this Youtube case. In fact, not even EMI has a say.
UPDATE 2: Matt says that Radiohead has 33% controlling interest on the song.