In yet another litigious move, Pop/Soul artist Prince has filed a lawsuit seeking $22 million dollars against 22 defendants. Each person noted in the suit provided links via social media pages or blogs to bootlegs Prince concerts from the 1980’s through today. Under his birth name Prince Rogers Nelson, the lawsuit was filed on January 16th in a Northern District of California, San Francisco court.
According to a court document obtained by ABC News, twenty of the alleged infringers are named only by their screen/user names, many whose handles allude to being diehard Price fans. Two people were specifically named, Dan Chodera and Karina Jindrova, as administrators of an unofficial Prince fan page on Facebook. Since the two live in France and the Czech Republic, they have yet to be served. It is also unclear whether US copyright infringement laws would apply to the citizens of a foreign country.
To further explain and find precedent of this alleged copyright infringement lawsuit, one should look at the case against 1990’s Internet sharing vehicle, Napster. In the Prince lawsuit, the persons who created the bootlegs—who actually do own the mechanical rights to the materials they created (but do not have consent to distribute commercially/for profit)—are not named. Only persons sharing links via social media are named in the suit, much the same as Napster merely shared information on where individuals could locate copies of music from other individuals.
The temptestuous artist is no stranger to legal actions. His legal team is notorious for scrubbing the Internet and YouTube of any and all unauthorized Prince videos and footage. In 2007, Prince went after a mother who posted a short home video of her toddler dancing to the Prince song Let’s Go Crazy. Also in 2007, the artist and his legal team launched an unsuccessful attempt to sue eBay, YouTube, and Pirate Bay for hosting information on Prince media sharing.
In 2012, Prince sent a cease and desist order to artist Troy Gua, whose adorably funny marionette parody website called Le Petit Prince was forced to shut down, or face a David and Goliath style lawsuit. Interestingly, Gua’s art is actually covered by US copyright laws as satire, parody, or derivative to create something new. However, the threat of a Prince lawsuit—with bottomless financial and legal resources—is enough of a threat for many to close shop. Gua posted to his Facebook page, “I will, of course, comply with their demands, whether I agree with them as matters of artistic freedom or not… I simply do not wish to fight with my hero, and it is terribly disheartening to think that he may hold ill will towards me and this project."
One recent Prince parody that does not yet seem to have been the target of the watchful, humorless eye of the Prince camp is the hilarious Stories About Prince blog, where one creative writer posts fictional handwritten stories about the artist's more mundane life—such as a pickle eating contest, buying a futon off of Craigslist, and Prince's attempt at online dating. However, today’s post cuts to the quick, addressing the $22 million lawsuit, stating the blog will now be titled Stories About Morris Day (who never sued anybody).
With so many failed previous lawsuits, on shaky grounds of copyright infringement, it will be interesting to see how this one shakes out for The Purple One.