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August 1, 2013

CopyLeft might not want to use Radiohead as an example

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In today's copyright review hearing, in the heat of his passion to point out that there are many exciting new ways to distribute content that don't involve nasty old paternalistic devices like copyright, one of the witnesses mentioned how enthusiastic the bands Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails are for free distribution.

Um, you might want to update your gallery of CopyLeft heroes, according to an article entitled "Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, and other digital pioneers sour on 'pay what you want' music":

Not long ago, many hoped the Internet would emerge as a music fan's Shangri-la, a utopian world where any track, no matter how obscure, was available for free, record labels were extinct and artists made a good living because their fans chose to reward them. Acts like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails championed this brave new world. "The way things are," Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails' frontman, told CNET in 2008, "I think music should be looked at as free. It basically is. The toothpaste is out of the tube and a whole generation of people is accustomed to music being that way."

But that dream has turned into a nightmare, according to Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke.

In a newspaper interview a week ago, the lead singer for the iconic rock band indicated that he and his bandmates may have done more harm than good in 2007 when they self released the album In Rainbows and allowed fans to pay whatever they chose. By turning music commerce into a sort of large tip jar, the In Rainbows offer was hailed as a forerunner of what the music industry would one day become.

Yorke said he now feels In Rainbows experiment may have actually helped technology companies, such as Google and Apple, strip the value out of music for their own benefit. The way Yorke sees it, the Web music services have sought to turn music and other media into commodities, and in the process made them "worthless." Radiohead helped whet their appetites for free music and now that’s what audiences have come to expect.

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