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Prince: taking on the fans

07 November 2007

Prince Fans UnitedPrince is a genius, officially the second greatest mind working in rock and pop music (after Brian Eno), according to Creators Synectics, a global consultants firm. I've been a fan since 1989 and firmly believe he's our greatest living musician.

He works hard and deserves to profit from his creativity. He has a right to stop people making unauthorised copies of his music products. I wish he wouldn't stop people posting videos online, but he's in the right and they're in the wrong, so that's how it goes. It gets silly when he sues people for posting 30 second clips of their babies bouncing to 'Let's go Crazy', but I support his right to stop people posting his old music videos.

But what will he achieve by telling fan sites they can't use his photo any more? He probably doesn't even own the copyright to the photos (which will belong to the photographers, unless stipulated otherwise by contract, which it certainly won't have been in the case of fan photos). Surely it's taking the mickey to say they can't use images of album covers, given the sites exist purely to talk about his work? Demanding compensation from these sites, which are run by volunteers out of love for the man and his work, is ridiculous.

Following the media coverage, I hope he will focus his lawyers on genuine copyright infringements, rather than on legitimate use of materials for commentary and review. An artist like Prince, who has been more outspoken than most in his 30 year career, should appreciate the importance of free speech and support it. Copyright laws were not created to suppress commentary and should not be abused to do so.

You can show your support for the fansites at Prince Fans United.

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Also, the line between satire and copyright has been blurred once again. Did you read about how Prince is threatening to sue people on the b3ta fanboards who have been Photoshopping him as part of their regular competitions? A notice on the site now reads: "Under threat of legal action from Prince's legal team of "potential closure of your web site" - We have removed the Prince image challenge and B3ta apologises unreservedly to AEG / NPG and Prince for any offence caused. We also ask our members to avoid photoshoping Prince and posting them on our boards."
From what I hear, some of the jokes in the b3ta competition were libellous (and pretty offensive to many people), so I'd support Prince's right not to be subjected to libel. Being the public eye doesn't make him a fair target for defamation.

It would have been nice though if he could focus on removing just those defamatory images, instead of forcing them to remove all the jokes about him. From his lyrics, it's clear the man has a sense of humour. He seems to be losing it though.
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