Ex-Prince Rules Net Postings Must End

Web-savvy Artist sends cease-and-desist order to anyone posting copyrighted material.

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."

"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

his work

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.