Looks Like Radiohead Is Backing Off Its Bogus ‘Creep’ Copyright Claim

Radiohead says they aren't suing Lana Del Rey
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Radiohead says they aren't suing Lana Del Rey
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Lana Del Rey, from her ‘Lust for Life’ Album Trailer.

Radiohead now says they aren’t suing Lana Del Rey over ‘Creep’.  So what are they doing?

Is Radiohead issuing idle threats against Lana Del Rey?

That’s the stinky possibility following a strange admission this morning from the group’s publisher, Warner/Chappell Music.  Apparently, neither the group nor its publisher are taking Lana Del Rey to court over alleged infringements found in the singer’s song, ‘Get Free’.

So what’s actually happening here?

Just last week, Lana Del Rey answered rumors about a supposed lawsuit between herself and Radiohead, based on alleged plagiarism of the 90s classic, ‘Creep’.  “It’s true about the lawsuit,” the singer tweeted fans on January 7th.  “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 past few months but they will only accept 100.  Their lawyers have been relentless, so we will deal with it in court.”

Sounds like pretty intimidating stuff.  And anyone who’s been the target of endless legal threats knows how these ‘negotiations’ can go.

But now, it looks like the band — and its ‘relentless’ lawyers — are backing off.

According to a statement issued this morning by Warner/Chappell Music, ‘discussions’ involving ‘representatives’ have been going on for months.  But the publisher denies that a demand for 100% publishing was issued.  And there isn’t a lawsuit filed.

Here’s Warner’s statement:

“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 favor 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’.”

Of course, threatening to sue is a lot easier than actually suing.  Especially when you’ve got a flimsy case.

+ Turns Out Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ Was Lifted from a 1972 Song by The Hollies

Accordingly, fresh claims about the actual copyright surrounding ‘Creep’ are now surfacing.  As publications started digging into the threats against Del Rey, a funny detail emerged on ‘Creep’.  It turns out that the song is amazingly similar to the early 70s hit from The Hollies, ‘The Air That I Breathe’.  In fact, it’s so similar that the writers of that song are now paid every time ‘Creep’ generates a royalty payment.

All of which raises the obvious next question: does Warner really control the copyright to ‘Creep’.  Technically, the mega-publisher ‘owns’ the work, but the song is arguably a flat rip-off of an earlier hit.  Which makes it sound like Radiohead was trying to extort Lana Del Rey on a song they didn’t really write.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen behavior like this.

Earlier, Warner/Chappell was forced to cede it’s ‘copyright’ over ‘Happy Birthday to You’.  That’s right: Warner claimed to own rights to the age-old classic, even though the actual melody had long since passed into the public domain.  Using an extremely questionable claim over the ‘modern-day’ lyrics to the song, the publisher made millions shaking down anyone who dared to use the ditty in a commercial work (and that includes filmmakers, restaurant owners, toy companies, etc.).

Happy Birthday Is Officially In The Public Domain, Judge Rules

In fact, Warner’s flimsy claims are the reason why you’d never hear ‘Happy Birthday to You’ in a motion picture.  And why producers were getting saddled with massive legal fees for ‘abusing’ a copyright.

Let’s hope the same thing isn’t going down with ‘Creep’.  But it kind of has a similarly foul odor.

10 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    Sort of like how you backed off your bogus Kim K faked jewel heist claims.

  2. Frank lee speaking

    It’s co-owned – thats never been a secret. If it wasn’t, warners wouldn’t have made any claim. And they’re not backing off – they’re just not claiming 100% and not suing yet.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Well that gets really tricky then, simply because the writing team behind ‘Air That I Breathe’ have just as much — if not way more — grounds for a copyright infringement suit. Guess Lana Del Rey copied both? Not possible, especially given extreme questions about Radiohead’s originality here.

  3. Stash Hamilton

    Paul, it’s my understanding that CREEP and THE AIR THAT I BREATHE, as a whole, aren’t really that similar. Rather, it’s Thom Yorke’s ad-lib falsetto Bridge section in CREEP that’s almost identical to the Verse melody of AIR. The Lana Del Rey song infringes upon the seemingly “original” parts of Radiohead’s song, ie. the Verses.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Hamilton, or whatever we’re calling you:

      Have you listened to the songs in question here? I don’t think there’s a small section of ‘Creep’ that bears similarity to ‘The Air That I Breathe’. It strikes me right off the bat as a carbon copy.

      Now of course they settled, so Radiohead doesn’t have to say they’re guilty. But…

      • Creepie

        “Creep” is not a “flat rip-off” of “The Air That I Breathe.” There’s one section in the bridge that is the melody to one section of the Hollies song. It’s almost verbatim, but to say the song is a “flat rip-off” is totally inaccurate.

      • Stash Hamilton

        Sorry Paul, “Hamilton” and Creepie are in complete agreement. Your take on the similarities reminds me more of the case between Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On”, where both share common elements to a remarkable degree, but the respective melodies are different. Of course, in a post-“Blurred Lines” world, this is dangerous territory.

  4. ryan

    The reporting on this is so terribly inaccurate for a site that should know how the music business and publishing business works. This is so simple. It’s a publishing dispute between two publishers (representing their songwriters). It happens all the time. There is no lawsuit (there could if be if they two sides can’t agree) but that’s a long shot. It’s not Radiohead’s lawyers threatening anyone. It’s a pub (Warner) saying hey we think the writers of creep deserve a % of the publishing on this (and they do). Who knows the the final agreement will be but it will look something like this:
    “Get Free”
    Albert Hammond / Mike Hazlewood/ Colin Greenwood / Jonny Greenwood / Ed O’Brien / Phil Selway / Thom Yorke – 40% (with exact % splits determined between the individuals)
    Lana Del Rey/Kieron Menzies /Nick Nowels – 60% (with exact % splits determined between the individuals)

    • Frank lee speaking

      Exactly – whoever wrote this knows nothing about music publishing and didnt research this at all