The Hypocrisy of the Radiohead Vs. Lana Del Rey situation
In the post “Blurred Lines” age of music law, copyright infringement is being more overseen. The newest case comes in the form of Radiohead vs. Lana Del Rey. Radiohead is claiming a song of Lana’s latest LP, “Get Free,” is similar to that of Radiohead’s biggest hit, “Creep.” While the similarities can be heard, it’s sad to see Radiohead come after Lana when “Creep” saw a similar fate.
It’s true about the lawsuit. Although I know my song wasn’t inspired by Creep, Radiohead feel it was and want 100% of the publishing – I offered up to 40 over the last few months but they will only accept 100. Their lawyers have been relentless, so we will deal with it in court.
— Lana Del Rey (@LanaDelRey) January 7, 2018
Looking at the writing credits of “Creep,” they are credited to Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood who wrote a song called “The Air That I Breath” in 1972. The song saw more popularity when English rock band The Hollis covered the track in 1974. Sometime after Radiohead’s song’s (“Creep”) success, Albert’s label noticed similarities between the two songs. While the label was ready to sue, Radiohead settled out of court by giving Albert and Mike the credit.
Come 2018, and Radiohead comes after Lana in the same fashion. However, as seen in the above tweet, Lana is ready to go to court over it, stating she did not copyright.
The fact of all three songs is that they follow the musical chord progression of I-III-IV-iv. To those foreign to music theory, it basically means both songs have the same chords. The difference, though, is that both Albert and Radiohead’s song is in the key of G, whereas “Get Free” is in the key of Bb. Yet unknown to many, the truth is that you cannot copyright a chord progression. If that were the case no songs could possibly be made since most, if not all chord, have been used in the world. It’s the reason Led Zeppelin cannot be sued over “Stairway to Heaven.”
So, neither parties have a case in the chord progression, nevertheless, a melody is subject to copyright, and that was the case for Radiohead. While no one knows the exact story, the common story is that Radiohead at first didn’t see the similarities, but later stated they were inspired by “The Air I Breathe.” They gave writing credits to Albert and Mike, and that was the end of it; both parties to this day receive royalties. The copyright was not on the chord progression, but on the melody, and when listening to both songs, it’s not hard to hear the similarities.
While Lana may have some similarities melodically, is it even worth going after? All the money to be spent on lawyers plus the hassle of showing up in a court for royalties on a song that isn’t even big? Especially when Radiohead themselves have dealt with the same situation for the same song. The fact that Lana was willing to share 40% even though she most likely didn’t copy Radiohead, shows that the band’s being relentless assholes over the situation. TO want a complete 100% of the rights is absurd, however, according to a Warner/Chappel spokesperson, this isn’t the case:
As Radiohead’s music publisher, it’s true that we’ve been in discussions since August of last year with Lana Del Rey’s representatives. It’s clear that the verses of “Get Free” use musical elements found in the verses of “Creep” and we’ve requested that this be acknowledged in favour of all writers of “Creep.” To set the record straight, no lawsuit has been issued and Radiohead have not said they “will only accept 100%” of the publishing of “Get Free.”
Time will tell what’ll happen with Radiohead vs. Lana Del Rey. Lana believes she’s innocent and is willing to fight the legendary band, and most people seem to agree with her. It just begs the question, why are Radiohead doing this when they themselves have dealt with this exact same issue over the exact same property?