Gigs & Bytes: Prince Overrules Radiohead
While appearing at the California festival, Prince played a version of Radiohead’s “Creep.” And like most live performances these days, it was a rendition captured on video cameras and posted on YouTube after the performance.
But the clips didn’t stay up for long. YouTube’s policy regarding copyrighted content is to remove the material once the content owners object, as specified by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In this case, Prince, through his NPG Records, made the complaint, and YouTube, which is owned by Google, complied.
Evidently Radiohead members never got the chance to view Prince’s version of the band’s song. During a recent interview, Thom Yorke said he heard about the performance, and thought the idea of Prince doing a Radiohead tune was “hilarious.”
Yorke also said he laughed when Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien told him Prince was ultimately responsible for blocking Yorke and the rest of the band from viewing the performance.
“Really? He’s blocked it?” asked Yorke. “Surely we should block it. Hang on a moment.”
Yorke added, “Well, tell him to unblock it. It’s our … song.”
But Radiohead may not have the legal authority to order Prince, YouTube, or anyone to unblock a performance of someone playing one of the band’s compositions. There are several copyright issues regarding an artist playing a cover of someone else’s song, not to mention when someone shoots an unauthorized video of the performance. Radiohead owns the song, but not the performance. To stay legal, an agreement from both parties might be necessary.
Prince has yet to comment on the matter. But last September The Artist Formerly Known As A Symbol threatened to sue YouTube if Prince material on the video Web site at that time wasn’t removed. So fans, and presumably Radiohead, are not holding their breaths waiting for His Majesty to answer.