Prince files, then withdraws, $22 million suit against bootlegging fans
It was business as usual this past week for Prince, who dropped a lawsuit against 22 defendants that had alleged that various bootlegged copies of his concerts had been made available online without his permission. He had filed the suit only days earlier in the Northern District of California, seeking $1 million from each defendant for engaging in “massive infringement and bootlegging of [his] material.” The only named parties were Dan Chodera and Karina Jindrova, who operate the fansite on which the allegedly infringing works were hosted. The complaint asserted that Chodera, Jindrova, and the 20 other John and Jane Does used a combination of Facebook and Google’s Blogger platform to illegally distribute his copyrighted works.
“Prince identified 363 separate infringing links to file sharing services, with each link often containing copies of bootlegged performances of multiple separate music compositions,” the complaint reads. “Thus, each Defendant is responsible for up to thousands of separate acts of infringement and bootlegging.”
But the Purple One dropped the suit several days later. In a statement, his lawyer explained the decision: “Because of the recent pressure, the bootleggers have now taken down the illegal downloads and are no longer engaging in piracy.” The suit was dismissed without prejudice, however, so if the alleged bootleggers are foolish enough to make the files available once more, Prince could reinstate his $22 million claim.
This is the latest chapter in Prince’s frequently contentious relationship with the digital age. He has established himself as one of the most litigious artists in digital copyright. In April 2013, Prince served the micro-video platform Vine with a DMCA copyright complaint, asking that eight six-second clips containing snippets of his music be removed. In a 2011 interview, he told George Lopez that he wanted to make it illegal to merely cover his songs. “There’s this thing called compulsory licensing law that allows artists through the record companies to take your music at will without your permission. And that doesn’t exist in any other art form, be it books, movies – There’s only one version of ‘Law & Order’. There’s several versions of ‘Kiss’ and ‘Purple Rain’.” Not surprisingly, you won’t find many of Prince’s songs on YouTube or Soundcloud.
It suffices to say, then, that Prince is about as far as you can be in the direction of pro-protection on the IP spectrum. By contrast, many acts have recently yielded to the realities of digital music platforms by releasing “free” material licensed for YouTube. Others either simply don’t care or don’t mind, and are happy to collect whatever they can from YouTube royalties.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit wasn’t the only thing Prince dropped this week. On the heels of recent singles “Da Bourgeoisie” and “Breakfast Can Wait,” he also released a teaser for “PRETZELBODYLOGIC,” from the upcoming album PLECTRUMELECTRUM, due early this year.