Radiohead may have moved 1.2 million copies of its new album “In Rainbows” when it was released last week, but according to industry analysts, over 500,000 copies were downloaded through old-fashioned file sharing networks, eroding the perceived success of the distribution plan and possibly hindering similar release plans for other artists in the future.
The Forbes journalist writes, “But more surprising is that fans chose to steal music they could legally download for any price they choose,” but it’s not clear whether that’s the analyst’s opinion or the writer’s. At any rate, we think it’s overstating the issue. Even the analyst admits that it’s not proof that Radiohead’s fans are a mutinous lot of anarchists:
Garland argues that this kind of digital theft is more a matter of habit than of economics. “People don’t know Radiohead’s site. They do know their favorite BitTorrent site and they use it every day,” he says. “It’s quite simply easier for folks to get the illegal version than the legal version.”
We know someone (ahem)* who couldn’t complete the check-out process on three separate occasions on the day the album was released, and who subsequently went the file-sharing route—but this is exactly the problem with Radiohead’s experiment, says a university professor:
But for Doug Lichtman, an intellectual property professor at the UCLA School of Law, the volume of piracy following In Rainbows’ release erodes the success of Radiohead’s innovation. “If the community rejects even forward-thinking experiments like this one, real harm is done to the next generation of experimentation and change,” he says.
Lichtman speculates that users may have interpreted Radiohead’s offer as a giveaway and so felt more comfortable downloading the album from other free sources. Fans may also have been turned off by the band’s requirement that users register by providing their name and e-mail and postal addresses.
* This person went back and bought the album legitimately via the website at a later date.