RIAA, FBI issuing takedown requests for Radiohead's "In Rainbows"

TorrentFreak reports that the RIAA and FBI are sending takedown notices to people sharing Radiohead's "self-released" album "In Rainbows," which was released in MP3 form at the time for whatever fans wanted to pay (though there were some oddly conflicting messages later from the band's management).

Mike at Techdirt writes, "TorrentFreak notes, accurately, that Radiohead did do deals with major labels for distribution of the physical album of In Rainbows, but I was pretty sure they kept the copyrights themselves. Perhaps that's not the case?"

(Full disclosure: the album remains one of my fave of all time. —XJ)


  1. What if the version that’s on the torrents is digitally watermarked as being the version that’s on the physical album? (It would be tres ironique if the only difference between the online and CD versions was the watermark.)

  2. Listening to music as densely layered and intricate as Radiohead on an MP3 file would be like watching your life through a screen door.

    Gimme my vinyl back.

    1. Are you trolling? or just ignorant? I own lots of vinyl and lots of mp3’s. Some of the mp3’s sound like crap and some of the vinyl sounds like crap. There’s nothing magical about either medium that makes a poor recording sound good. As long as the sampling rate of the mp3 is high enough you’re not going to notice a loss in quality.

          1. I know, right? Crazy kids and their “vinyl.”
            In my day, we listened to recordings of Thomas Edison’s voice on wax cylinders – and we liked it!

    2. You do realize that nearly all music is digitally mastered now even if you buy it on vinyl. Poorly mastered vinyl will sound just as shitty as a poorly ripped MP3. It’s an urban legend that people can tell the difference in sound quality.

      I’ve bought tons of vinyl over the past ten years that is full of horrible digital artifacts, digital clipping being the main culprit thanks to the loudness wars.

      1. Digital mastering has nothing to do with it. Mastering to vinyl means appropriate steps have to be taken to ensure proper fidelity. A recording can’t be too loud or else the needle will jump right out of the groove. Unless a record was mastered from a artifacted and clipped CD (wherein the CD recording is lowered in volume to accommodate the Vinyl), you won’t find those things on a properly mastered vinyl pressing.

        It does happen. The US picture Disc of Lady Gaga’s “The Fame Monster” was mastered from a CD and sounds horrible, but the Australian Vinyl of the same album was mastered properly and sounds amazing; light years ahead of it’s digital counterpart.

        I find it highly suspect that you’ve bought tons of vinyl that have inherent problems in the recording. You must have awful bad luck.

        1. “the Australian Vinyl of the same album was mastered properly and sounds amazing; light years ahead of it’s digital counterpart”

          I doubt it. Show me a better signal with a high frequency oscilloscope or distortion analyzer or other such professional grade, calibrated test equipment and I’ll believe you. Otherwise, it’s all “golden ear” confirmation bias to me.

          A 64kbps or 128kbps mp3 may be lousy, but a loss-less digital version is going to be as good as any other recording method as far as the human ear is concerned.

          1. Well, with all undue respect, instead of being an armchair commentator, flinging buzzwords about with abandon, you should go and do the research yourself instead of having to have it shown to you without and iota of effort on your part.

            If you have to be shown visually what sounds better, then there’s no point. That’s like touching something to know what it smells like.

          2. That would be true if you were talking about how ‘good’ it sounds; but you appeared to be claiming higher quality. There’s a difference.

            I had an old copy of ‘my girl’ from a jukebox, and it sounded incredible; but the quality was no where near that of a CD.

            I think it all depends on the medium and your tastes; but the quality of a high enough kbps MP3 will always be ‘better’. Incidentally most decent sources of MP3 rip at a high enough kbps that your ears couldn’t detect the difference between that and a raw file. It’s like framerate.

            However the comment about the wooden volume knob was an instant classic.

          3. Sorry, I don’t use Monster cables. :) I’m assuming you’re associating me with those same idiots that use a green marker to make their CDs sound better. Sorry, no. Not me. That analogue sounds better than the majority of digital is not a myth or fallacy. Analogue sound will never beat Digital simply because it’s organic. It’s natural. It’s a tangible replication that exists in this world. It’s not a series of 1s and 0s.

            I am old enough to have grown up with a lot of different audio formats in my home: 8 Track Cartridge, Reel to Reel, Vinyl, Cassette, Cd and now MP3.

            I’m sure most of you out there over the years(who are much younger than I) listened to most of your music on boom boxes, cheap Fisher all in one systems and what would amount to a close and play record player. You then most likely graduated to CDs and MP3s that sounded much better to your ears. In those cases, you’d be right because you’re only going by your experience which you erroneously thought to be the norm or the standard. That is you upgraded from crap sound to less crap sound.

            Any of those formats mentioned previous could wipe up the floor with CD and MP3, considering you bought proper replication equipment; even 8 Track, which got an amazingly bad rap due to widespread shoddy playback equipment. But that’s the crux of it: Unless you have proper equipment to replicate the sound properly, don’t tell me that your iPod and ear buds sound better. You have no true perspective.

            Simply put, you’ll never, ever convince me of otherwise. And, if I may be completely bold, I’m older, wiser, been around longer, had much more experience… so I know better. Nyah.

          4. Analogue sound will never beat Digital simply because it’s organic. It’s natural. It’s a tangible replication that exists in this world. It’s not a series of 1s and 0s.

            Well first of all you probably meant “analog will always beat digital,” but skipping over the typo, the entire statement is just not relevant. This is not an argument, it’s an admission that you don’t know what you’re talking about. “Analog” does not mean “exact.” Vinyl mastering and pressing destroys more information and introduces more noise than the CD digitization process does. Period. That’s just a physical, mathematical fact. The entire premise of your belief system is wrong. Sorry.

          5. Aye, Thanks for pointing out my typo. It was meant to read “Digital will never beat Analogue” (and it won’t). Analogue is Brundle. Digital is Brundlefly.

            I never said Analogue meant exact. I said it’s natural and organic. I’m not looking for perfection in sound, I’m looking for something pleasing to the ear. The sound of Analogue pleases me much more than digital, as it does many, many others. It sounds real and in the room. Vinyl mastering may “destroy” some elements of the music, who knows? That’s more for someone like Bob Ludwig to comment on, not us. What is evident, however, is whatever might be lost in Vinyl mastering, something pretty damn wonderful is left in it’s wake. It’s not dissimilar to motion picture film grain. For the record (pun), I’ll also take viewing a 35mm print of a movie over a digitally projected movie any day of the week. Is it perfect? No. But there’s just SOMETHING about it. The charm is in it’s near subliminal imperfection.

            To take it down the road of science and mathematics shows you aren’t a music fan by any stretch. Something doesn’t sound better simply because the data tells you it does.

            As for my belief system… It’s MY belief system, or like normal people say, my opinion. It can’t be wrong based on that singular fact. It’s not meant to apply to anyone else, although it’s very nice when people agree. Therefore, you can keep your apologies since there’s nothing to be sorry for, Mr. (or Ms.) Anon.

            God, you Anaphobes are touchy.

          6. belief about natural scientific facts can indeed be wrong and is not opinion. To put it plainly everything you are describing is wrong.

            Your posts are full of magical talk about about a scientific process.

        2. “The US picture Disc of Lady Gaga’s “The Fame Monster” was mastered from a CD and sounds horrible, but the Australian Vinyl of the same album was mastered properly and sounds amazing; light years ahead of it’s digital counterpart.”

          – generally, picture discs sound worse than regular vinyl, due to differences in the manufacturing process.

        3. Clearly the people responding to give you shit have no idea about mastering. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s just some nebulous process involved with making music, as far as they’re concerned.
          As a musician and producer, I’m getting a kick out of these replies.
          Some of you guys should go read some wikipedia…

          1. (sigh) I know. Feels like I’m to be burned at the stake.:)

            I think it’s important to point out that I’m not anti Digital. I have an iPod and a ton of CDs, but when I want to listen to music (and not have it as just background music while I’m doing other things), I’ll put on a groovy slab. …and you’ll know when I really love an album when I seek out the vinyl version.

            To tie this in with the actual subject of the article above: Y’know, vinyl has it’s own copy protection built in. Maybe the RIAA should look into that…

            @Rider – That could be easily turned the other way. I’ve never met anyone that could conclusively prove Digital is superior, either.

            And to everyone else, it does all come down to what sounds good to you. It is funny, though, how so many of you get so intense when faced with a vinyl aficionado. You all run around screaming, “YOU HAVE NO PROOF!!!! THERE”S NO DIFFERENCE!!!” and we just sit calmly and quietly smile. We know what’s up.

          2. USB turntables pretty much kill off the whole built-in copy protection thing. You can also buy USB cassette players nowadays.

            I like to mock vinyl purists, but then, sadly, I own about 700 records that I can’t part with.

            Let’s just listen to the music and stop fondling the packaging, shall we? That’s the best.

    3. Are you deluded?
      Do you really think that there is any detectable difference? That’s like believing that gold audio connectors sound better.

      As for liking the whole tactile vinyl experience that’s another thing completely, but thinking vinyl sounds better than mp3’s is like religion, it’s just a belief system. No basis in reality.

  3. Curious, I followed the “oddly conflicting messages later” link,
    but I don’t see any such thing on the linked page. Anyone have
    more info on that?

    The link points to the same place as the “whatever fans wanted
    to pay” link, so maybe its a pasteographical error.

  4. Releasing a “name your own price” album doesn’t necessarily imply that you can redistribute it for free and in perpetuity. All it really says is that you can pick your price and get the album for your own personal use, if you do so while the offer is still on the table.

  5. Just because they said you could buy it for $0.00 from them doesn’t mean that they put it in the public domain.

    Radiohead still owned the copyright, and didn’t give any permissions — CreativeCommons or otherwise — to host or (re)distribute the files.

    The pay-what-you-wish site was a temporary trial that ended a long time ago. It now costs £7.50 from the band’s own site. They also signed a deal over rights management with Warner.

    1. “The pay-what-you-wish site was a temporary [promotion].”

      I support Radiohead and their forward-thinking approach to music distribution, but the idea was really a promotion, not a trial to test the waters or to expose some deeper hypocrisy in the music industry. It was marketing and it communicated well with the audience Radiohead was aiming for.

  6. I think you mean IFPI. The FBI doesn’t bother with DMCA takedown notices, they just violate your rights without the niceties of paperwork.

  7. usually I don’t visually hear much of anything personally. Then again after that last incident with LSD…

  8. I don’t see the issue; it was given away potentially free, but it still came with rights restrictions; it’s not CC. And I assume the bodies are acting on Radioheads behalf (in fact I think they need to be as it’s not a criminal interest … in the UK at least, but civil).

    Although I completely appreciate the irony (which is maybe the point), there’s nothing wrong with them protecting their copyright in this way. After all it’s up to them what kind of license they attach to their music.

  9. Ok, how about a double blind listening test?

    There is absolutely a difference between vinyl and other media. The warm sound vinyl has comes from a kind of distortion inherent to the medium. Some people like it, and it’s why many artists release on vinyl, but it’s factually, objectively distortion. If you like it, go for vinyl, but don’t turn around and act like your preference makes it objectively superior.

    There’s also absolutely nothing stopping an digital recording being made from a vinyl one that maintains the warm sound. Digital format does not inherently introduce any distortion beyond the limitations of mics, etc unless the bitrate is too low to properly reproduce the source medium. If some digitally mastered CDs sound worse than older recordings, it’s because of trends in how mixing is done (look up “loudness war”).

    I swear, people, just listen to what you like.

  10. I have the vinyl of “In Rainbows” and it sounds great. I have a 192 Kbps version on my iPod and it also sounds great. It’s a brilliant album recorded by a great band at the height of its powers by some of the world’s best engineers on priceless vintage gear. Listening to it on the iPod is not a radically different experience than listening to the vinyl, unless you have some uber-snobby ultra-hi-fi stereo equipment.

  11. We should also remember that there are differences in how you approach mastering CDs and vinyl. And there have been refinements in how digital mastering is done over the years. This explains, for example why the original CD versions of The Beatles sound different from the remasters. Presumably they sound different again from the vinyl but I can’t claw those out of my Dad’s hands yet :)

  12. might I make an observation about quality and preference?

    Objectively, the animation quality from the original Scooby Doo series is nowhere near as good as the quality of the newer Scooby Doo series.

    I like the original Scooby Doo animation way better than the current animation.

    In conclusion, you’re all annoying.

  13. I think any Lady Gaga sounds like two tone deaf “special” kids fighting over a lobster no matter what recording method they used. I’m just saying.

  14. Sidestepping the audiophile flamewar for a moment —

    The reason this seems confusing to torrentfreak and to BoingBoing doesn’t have anything to do with the “name your price” promotion and more to do with the fact that Radiohead are not a roster artist of any major label, and thus the RIAA shouldn’t be fighting any battles on their behalf. These kinds of takedown notices are done ostensibly by the label that distributes the music, acting on power of attorney given to them by their artist. In Rainbows was self-released, and thus the RIAA should have no power to do this, only Radiohead themselves can.

    So can we accuse the RIAA of perjury and bring their strongarm tactics to a grinding halt? Sadly no, ’cause they actually do have a (slim, but present) case. While Radiohead are signed to no artist, and they financed and recorded and released In Rainbows themselves, they did sign one-off deals with various record labels to distribute the album in various regions of the world. In the US, it was ATO Records, a small label started by Dave Matthews & Michael McDonald (heh)… which is a owned in majority by RCA, which is owned by Sony Music, who, along with Warner Bros, EMI and Universal basically ARE the RIAA.

    1. Thank you for being the only post in #43 posts that’s actually addressed the issue (a couple of people at the top tried to but seemed to have missed the point of what Xeni was saying!)

      Does the RIAA own the rights to the songs? A distribution deal does not generally all distribution. It would be interesting to find out who controls the digital distribution rights.

      I notice the album is available on iTunes. Does the iTunes store allow independent artists to do direct distribution deals with iTunes or does there need to be a record label in between?

      Also, please enough with the bloody audiophile debate. We’ve had enough of those on BB and Xeni’s post has nothing to do with Vinyl vs. CDs or any other crap like that.

  15. “Man, th-this must be one a them contrapment things.”

    Everybody arguing about vinyl vs. digital: this is like Vietnam, no one wins (although one party may have to be embarrassingly airlifted out). Anybody this caught up on how you’re listening to the music is just missing out on like, the point, man.

  16. I have a vinyl import of Beth Gibbon’s solo album. As the rumor goes, the vinyl release was made from the studio tape, which was in turn an all-analog production. So the album is, supposedly, untouched by computer. It doesn’t sound noticeably different from the CD or the MP3s I made of the CD. But audio quality, like homeopathic medicine, is highly subjective & ripe ground for ripping off suckers. I have a sound engineer friend who agrees that it sounds pretty much the same on LP as it does off the ipod, and I have a stereophile pal who swore up & down in a blind listening that the MP3 was “warmer and more alive”. He also has a rock that “tunes” the room, so thereya go.

  17. well I use crushed fur seal fetus to lubricate my wattgate power outlets so I get way better sound out of my fisher price cassette player then even God’s trumpet has…
    so take that…

  18. Anyone ever notice that the people who swear vinyl is superior can never show you a double blind test showing they are right. Double blind tests prove the mastering is all that matters and people pick what sounds better to them, I have never seen numbers that show anything else.

    Of course they refuse to accept this and resort to more magical talk of warmth and other excuses why the difference can’t be demonstrated. Plain and simple if it truly sounded better there would be something showing it.

  19. All you have to do to settle this argument is go into a recording studio. There, you can compare the master tape against the CD and the vinyl version with the help of audiophile professionals.

    That is, you could, if you could find a recording studio with a turntable in it. It turns out that most, if not all, recording studios have CD players in them. For some reason, most audio engineers like to have a CD player around as a reference. Sometimes they also like to have a turntable around as an ironic hipster joke.

  20. And then I came back to find a sh!tstorm had ensued (see #2).

    I’m just an old guy with specific tastes; no gold cables, no audiophile equipment; just an old amp and a pile of music, on vinyl and CD. Sadly, most of my albums got sold off way back when I thought shooting heroin was a good idea.

    I have no proof and I’m not so anal retentive as to need the aforementioned “double-blind” test. When I listen to my original copy of the White Album (still have the 8x10s and the posters), it sounds better than the disc. Sorry to all you digital snobs but it simply does. Pity you aren’t old enough to remember life prior to Auto Tune nor even before your precious ear buds. iPods suck and compressed digital files suck. Someday when the NEXT musical reproduction revolution happens, we’ll look back and wonder what music should have sounded like for the last couple of decades. Until then, I’ll keep buying new CDs and used vinyl. Just found The Meters’ Second Line Strut, an early ’70s import and it sounds SWEET. I’d recommend it but hey, it never got released on CD. OOPS.

    Oh and by the way, my 1956 Rolleiflex shoots vastly superior images than my Canon G11, and I don’t have to lie to the f***king thing to make it do what I want. Suck on THAT for awhile.

  21. This is just an anecdote, but many years ago the US postal service “lost” my record collection. There were hundreds of punk records that probably won’t ever get re-released. But over the years many have come out in both CD and MP3 and I have slowly replaced many of the lost albums. The digital versions do sound different to me–it could be age, nostalgia or I don’t know what. But they sound almost hollow and tin-like. Most punk albums were not mastered well (if at all!), and it may be that vinyl somehow allowed them to fill out more. I realize this is completely unscientific, but I do feel like the analog versions had a “glow” to them.

    OK, now I brace myself for the audiophile flamers.

    1. Honestly, most punk and metal sound better on crap audio gear. We recently scrounged up an old boombox and played back some Metallica and early Offspring – it sounded “better” because that’s what we remember it to be. Played through crap speakers way too loud. You lose something essential playing punk through a $1000 stereo system – not in audio, but in spirit.

      It is true that music mastered for vinyl sounds better on vinyl – the frequency response capabilities of vinyl aren’t the same as digital, and if you don’t correct for it when making your masters for vinyl, the vinyl can sound overdriven and boomy. Likewise, the analog wizards who mastered all the old vinyl specifically targeted the capabilities of the playback media, and as a result, the emphasis put in various parts of the spectrum is completely wrong for digital audio. Thus, tinny and weak.

      So, both sides are right – old vinyl sounds great because that’s what it’s mastered for, but you need good gear and a good ear to tell the difference most of the time.

      Hand that vinyl over to a good audio engineer, and they’ll be able to tweak the sound to make it sound amazing in digital.

  22. To take it down the road of science and mathematics shows you aren’t a music fan

    On the contrary, it just shows that one of us is a member of what has quaintly been dubbed the “reality-based community,” and the other … is not.

  23. The reason the remastered Beatles CD sounded different again is down to repackaging; a nice ploy to make fans buy their records all over.

    Takling of which I think another poster hit the nail on the head when they pointed out that the In Rainbows release was a nicely pitched marketing exercise. I’m sure they wouldn’t have done it if they hadn’t got a few million unit sales under their belt first.

    1. I’m just be blunt and say the whole In Rainbows release really pissed me off, simply because it was just about the money. I got all excited when I first read that the album was going to be sold for “whatever you feel it’s worth.” I hoped Radiohead was taking a stand against all this intellectual copyright bulls**t that the RIAA been stuffing down our throats, just to line the pockets of record company execs. Radiohead would have the clout to lead the way for reform in the music industry…

      But, no. It turned out to just be a marketing strategy. They did it because they knew they could and still make millions.

  24. I have studio monitors and semi-professional recording, mixing, and mastering equipment. I record vinyl to my computer and then convert to MP3. The sound is identical — the MP3 sounds like I’m playing a record.

    If the argument is about differences in mastering processes, that’s fair enough. That’s like saying a burger from Wendys tastes different from BK or McDonalds. Same ingredients, slightly different amounts of salt, sugar, and chemicals. Same with different mastering processes.

    But vinyl can’t be better than digital because there are things you can’t do in the format. Try panning a low frequency signal quickly — it’ll pop the needle right out of the groove. There’s a lot of compromises needed to get a good sound on vinyl, one of which is effective compression. I prefer jazz in digital format because you can actually hear the bass player.

    And if you listen to your records through an EQ? Sorry, you’ve lost the argument.

  25. Actually, a record is still only a representation of the ultimate product: music. It’s no more concrete or real than the 1’s and 0’s recorded on a hard drive or flash memory. The linked “howstuffworks” article claims that “no information is lost” when recorded on vinyl, but that’s factually incorrect. There are limitations to how rapidly and accurately the record needle can move, so some fidelity is lost in the recording process.

    My claim is not comparable to “touching something to know what it smells like,” it’s more like having to refer to a microscope to tell which of two fundamentally similar surfaces is smoother. The point of measuring equipment is to remove guesswork and opinion.

    Preferring vinyl is one thing, but claiming it is better is something else entirely. The goal for me is to listen to something that sounds the most like the artist(s) playing their instruments in front of me. Records introduce distortion that makes the sound less like that and more like listening to the music on the radio.

    I’m not old enough to be senile, but I am old enough for my first music experiences to be a very nice Hitachi record player that my father owned. My first record player was years later, a Technics that I still have. I’ve owned 8-track, cassette, and even DCC players. I have a good setup with Klipsch speakers and have always had a nice stereo ever since scrounging some halfway decent equipment from a church yard sale at 12 years old. But when it comes to actually reproducing the sounds as made by a musical instrument and not some idealized version of what I think it should sound like, I know that a good quality digital recording that has been done as carefully as the analog equivalent is better.

  26. Actually there is a noticeable difference visually (soundwave) and audibly between the sound produced by playing vinyl and the sound produced by playing a digital media.


    As demonstrated at the above link a digital encoding of music, is an attempt to replicate an analogue sound wave. Due to the nature of digital, data is encoded in blocks and a stair stepping wave form emerges. Thus, sound is lost in 16 bit digital recording, which is the industry standard for CDs and digital recording.

    So, were we comparing 24-bit mastering to vinyl, I would choose 24-bit files because vinyl surface noise annoys me. But vinyl contains more sound information than 16-bit CDs. Whether or not that can be heard, depends on the listener…

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