The Artist Formerly Known As Prince -- who has built one of the strongest
Web-based fan communities and who used the Internet recently to sell
100,000 copies of his latest album, Crystal Ball -- has now ordered
anyone posting his copyrighted material online to stop immediately or face
a potential lawsuit.
Back in 1995, when The Artist began talking about "freeing the music" by
taking it directly to his fans through the Internet, a mail-order service
and the concert stage, the idea sounded great to Charles Battle, a fan of
the former Prince.
In fact, Battle was so intrigued by The Artist's intentions of connecting
with fans that he created the "Live Lyrics Experience" website to house
transcriptions of live performances and to trade concert tapes of His Royal
Badness. But last Friday, Battle saw his own enthusiasm sink, when he, along
with an untold number of other Prince website owners and retailers,
received a cease-and-desist letter from The Artist's attorney, demanding
that they refrain from distributing copyrighted material including lyrics,
sounds and images.
"It goes against what I've always believed he believed in," Battle, 35,
said Monday by phone from Las Vegas, where he maintains the "Live Lyrics
Experience." "The way I look at it is that I'm practically giving his
music away, which is taking money out of his pocket -- but I've always
thought that it wasn't about the dollar with him, that it was about making
the music and letting the people hear the music. It's all kind-of
"Surprising" is a watered-down description for what some webmasters have
termed the order, which has become the subject of numerous rants on the
alt.music.prince newsgroup. Because The Artist has developed such a strong
base of support on the Internet, cracking down on websites has been
characterized as outright heresy by some. It may, however, be just the
beginning, according to Londell McMillan, attorney for The Artist.
The cease-and-desist letter was "Phase One" of The Artist's three-tiered
strategy to block the unauthorized dissemination of his copyright work,
McMillan said Monday. Alleged violators have until Wednesday to remove
offending material from their websites or, in the case of retailers, to
turn over bootleg recordings. Noncompliance will trigger notification of
civil and criminal authorities, and if that does not resolve the situation
to The Artist's satisfaction, he vows to file suit against the alleged
offenders, McMillan added.
The cease-and-desist letter primarily targeted sites offering bootleg
recordings for sale or download, according to McMillan. "With respect to a
number of the fan websites, we are not going to challenge certain uses of
his likeness," he said. "However, we are really going to cut back on
unlawful bootleg recordings. We're working with those that are friends [of
The Artist] to ensure that the friends get the appropriate kind of
approvals for their websites."
Exactly who enjoys "friend of The Artist" status is a matter that veers
from the legal jargon of the cease-and-desist letter into more subjective
territory. "Friends are people who know and love his music, and know and
love him, and respect his wishes to not invade his personal recordings and
without getting his consent," McMillan said. "Those that are friends who
use their websites to promote the good of his music and humankind will be
given the appropriate permissions. Those who are going beyond the bounds
of supporting good music and the human good, as [The Artist] sees it, just so
they can extract a profit from infringing on his work, will be prosecuted."
Pierre Igot, owner of the unofficial "Le Grind" Artist news site, said
Monday that he did not receive a letter from McMillan, most likely because
the few photos he uses on his site have come with permission from The
Artist's Paisley Park organization or have a copyright owned by someone
other than The Artist.
Igot has, however, been following the controversy.
"I don't think it's going to destroy the online community of Artist
followers," Igot, 30, said from his home in Southwest Nova Scotia, Canada.
"In the short term, it's going to have an impact, obviously, because
there's always very strong reactions by people who don't want to think
further than next week. But I think things are going to evolve. If you
love the music, but at the same time you do things that are illegal from a
copyright point of view, then you are not consistent, so I guess that's the
message that [The Artist] is sending."
However unwanted, it's a message that Battle said he heard loud and clear
-- he plans to remove his lyrics and tape-trading page by the Wednesday
deadline and replace it with a copy of the cease-and-desist letter, along
with his thoughts on everything that has transpired.