03 April 2008

Radiohead disappoints remixers

I just received the following email from fellow remixer DJ_Rkod:



Radiohead have invited fans to remix their recent single, "Nude," and have created a site to host said creations. It is easily navigable, the remixes are easy to listen to and many of them are pretty good.

It's also one of the worst deals I've ever seen when it comes to remixing.

The first problem is immediately apparent on the front page of the site, which states:

"Nude by Radiohead is out now. You can buy bits of it here and upload your remix here."

Buy? Really? On further investigation, I found that yes, the British band expects you to shell out your funds in order to have the privilege of mixing them. It's what I like to call a Very Bad Thing. But it gets better! A look at the terms and conditions reveals that this is in fact even worse than it appears to be. I'd like to deconstruct some of the terms below.

"...

1. all rights in and to any remixed versions ("Remixes") of the song "Nude" ("the Song") created by the Entrant shall be owned by Warner/Chappell Music Ltd ("WCM") and to the extent necessary the Entrant hereby assigns all rights in the Remixes of the Song to WCM throughout the World for the full life of copyright and any and all extensions and renewals thereof. If requested by WCM, the Entrant shall complete and sign a formal assignment of copyright to give effect to the foregoing;

2. all rights in and to any Remixes of the original sound recording of the Song ("the Master") created by the Entrant shall be owned by _Xurbia _Xendless Ltd ("Xurbia") and to the extent necessary the Entrant hereby assigns all rights in the Remixes of the Master to Xurbia throughout the World for the full life of copyright and any and all extensions and renewals there. If requested by Xurbia, the Entrant shall complete and sign a formal assignment of copyright to give effect to the foregoing;

..."


This essentially removes all of your rights to anything you do with the song. You do not control what Warner or Xurbia do with whatever you create. You do not own any part of it. You are essentially paying them so you can work for them, a complete and utter reversal of the way things should be.

"...

3. Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O'Brien and Phil Selway will be registered and credited as the sole writers and WCM the publishers of the Remixes of the Song created by the Entrant;

4. the Entrant will not acquire a copyright interest in the Song by virtue of creating Remixes of the Song;

..."


4 is essentially a restatement of the above. But 3 is something else entirely. When combined with the rest of the contract, it means that, with or without your permission, Warner or Xurbia can sell your mix, without paying you a cent and without even giving you credit for it.

"Xurbia shall not commercially exploit the Remixes of the Song created by the Entrant without consulting with the Entrant prior to such commercial exploitation."

This is a laughable assurance, because the remixer owns no part of his own work, and can do absolutely nothing to prevent such commercial exploitation. A consultation of this type would only serve to fulfill the terms of the contract.

I do not recommend using this site (obviously) and hope that in the future remixing is thought of in terms other than monetary ones.

--DJ



editor's notes:
* The above obviously isn't intended as legal advice, but an opinion of the author.
* While I may be able to tolerate somebody charging for their remixing stems (although in this case it appears to be strangely inconsistent with the "pay what you like" approach previously taken by Radiohead), I am as deeply disappointed as DJ_Rkod about what to me appears to be an plain and simple grab of IP (intellectual property) rights. I do support the notion that the original artist and their publisher shouldn't loose the rights to their work because of remixing activities. However as remixes add new IP, just grabbing that new IP without compensation seems very unfair to me. I agree with DJ Rkod that "consultation" would appear to be a bit of a weak (if any) protection for the IP of the remixer. I Count me amongst those, that refuse to remix under such terms and conditions.

I think Radiohead could learn a thing or two about creating friendly remixer relations from Nine Inch Nails.

2 comments - add your comment:

Jeremy said...

Well it really is a matter of expectations. 1) I have absolutely no need to have any ownership of my remixes. I do it entirely for pleasure. 2) I don't even really need credit for them if I post them online. Once again, it's entirely for pleasure.

If EMI released stems for any of the Beatles material (and apparently some have leaked because I have a friend who has some) I would not only pay for them, I would probably pay good money. Yes, I would pay for the privilege of having the stems. And I would do it for the aforementioned stipulations, no rights and no credit. And I would do it with a smile :-P

I'm a huge Radiohead fan so I feel the same way about this. Perhaps someone with only a passing interest would feel differently. But for the thousands of rabid fans there's certainly no shortage of people who feel the same way as I.

It's rather ironic that Radiohead started a huge trend with the "pay what you want" idea (although not the first to do it they certainly were the most prominent). Then to be followed by Nine Inch Nails who is now being pointed to regarding this "Radiohead remix disappointment".

I say at least they've provided something. How many dozens of artists do we really like that doesn't even provide any remix opportunity? All is well in my little world.

spinmeister said...

to clarify: my own major disappointment (and think that's mostly what DJ_Rkod highlighted) is the intellectual property grab (i.e. they own my remix even for commercial purposes). That just violates my basic sense of fairness.

I don't have much of a fairness problem with them charging for the stems - what's theirs is theirs and they can choose to charge money for whatever they want to, but don't expect me to give up commercial rights to my work, when they don't give up theirs.

To be quite honest, my guess is that the band has not vetted that legal language in detail - musicians generally don't enjoy spending time on legal issues - that's why so many get sucked into bad deals with record companies and publishers.

But they should pay attention to this (and all musicians including remixers should pay attention to legal issues) - the creative commons has most certainly made it easy to allow non commercial artistic sharing while maintaining control over commercial efforts. Nine Inch Nails has figured that out - why not Radiohead?

I still have a hope that they will fix the basic unfairness in their terms and conditions language. That to me would make them heroes again.