The line between inspiration and theft continues to be blurry in the world of music, and as it turns out, Lana Del Rey is not exempt from copyright claims arising from those fuzzy definitions.
The latest controversy revolves around Del Rey’s new song, “Get Free,” which is featured on her “Lust for Life” album. According to Warner/Chappell, the music publisher for the band Radiohead, “Get Free” sounds enough like Radiohead’s song, “Creep,” which was a hit in 1993, that the songwriters of “Creep” allegedly deserve at least partial credit for “Get Free,” as well as a percentage of the song’s royalties.
What makes this dispute different is the lack of consensus as to whether a copyright lawsuit actually exists.
On January 7th, Del Rey posted a tweet saying that Radiohead’s song was not an inspiration for her own hit, but that the band continued to demand 100% of the song’s royalties. Del Rey said she had offered as much as 40% of the song’s royalties in negotiations that had lasted a few months, but that Radiohead’s attorneys refused to accept anything less than 100%. Del Rey concluded the tweet by saying they would settle the dispute in court.
The game of internet telephone quickly expanded on Del Rey’s comment until reports started coming out that a lawsuit had already been filed against the pop singer. Del Rey continued to promote such exaggerated accounts by saying the song might not appear on future physical copies of the album if a settlement could not be reached.
Warner/Chappell remained silent on the subject for a few days, but finally came out with a statement denying that they were demanding all royalties to “Get Free,” but confirming that they had been in negotiations with the singer and her attorneys since August. The music publisher did confirm that it was seeking credit for the song on behalf of Radiohead.
According to Warner/Chappell, Del Rey’s song, “Get Free,” had “musical elements” that were also found in Radiohead’s song, “Creep,” and that they were asking Del Rey and her attorneys to give credit where credit is due. The music publisher alleges that, in the case of “Get Free,” that includes giving credit to the songwriters who helped create the song “Creep,” Rick Nowles and Kieron Menzies. If Warner/Chappell is successful in pursuing their claims (which may or may not involve a lawsuit at some future date) then Nowles and Menzies will be listed as authors of the song alongside Del Rey.
New hit recording artists finding themselves at the center of a copyright lawsuit over one of their hit songs is a tale as old as copyright law. In fact, Radiohead was slapped with their own copyright lawsuit back when “Creep” was first released. The Hollies claimed it was too similar to their song, “The Air That I Breathe,” which had reached the Top 10 list in 1974. Their lawsuit claimed “Creep” used various musical elements that had been used in “The Air That I Breathe,” including the same chord progression. As a result of their claim, credits for the writing of “Creep” now officially include Mike Hazlewood and Albert Hammond.
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