The ever-enigmatic Radiohead had their own big release recently, distributing their latest album Rainbows to over a million and a half people since the album was released on 10/10.
While I can’t gauge teens’ interest in Radiohead, I can say that this release is pretty important to libraries for at least one reason: they released it themselves, they released it online, and they let fans set their own price.
Yes, no record label was involved in the process of creating this album and, unless you’re willing to shell out $80 for the discbox (CD, LP, bonus CD, and artwork), digital downloading is the only way to get it in the forseeable future.
Lots of bands and artists are moving this route, selling digital tracks through the Snocap service in order to retain control over the rights to their music. In my other blog post, Chris commented, “Maybe it is difficult to discuss music collections because the industry and the format are in flux, and we’re not sure what role the public library will play.” This is certainly one of those cases, as current interpretations of copyright law leave libraries incapable of distributing these works. Radiohead does not provide any license with the download (I downloaded it myself to check), which means they retain all the rights authorized under copyright law. This leaves libraries without authorization under section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Code, which effectively wags its finger at our attempts to burn or otherwise distribute these files. We could each work out an individual license with the band, but I can’t imagine it would be easy. Nor could I imagine how this would play out in a future where thousands of artists are distributing their music solely through a decentralized digital network.
What can we as a library community do about this? Can we lobby Snocap to include rights for libraries in its agreement with musicians? Can we engage the open source community to develop a secure distribution system for MP3s (which would garner us leverage in providing digital downloads of purchased song files)?