THE ARTIST, who last week issued a legal ultimatum against fan websites displaying “unauthorised material”, could have a lengthy battle on his hands. Some webmasters are vowing to defy the ban for as long as they can.
In a situation similar to Oasis’ clampdown last year on fan sites, lawyers acting under The Artist’s instructions notified webmasters by e-mail last week, warning them that unless they removed all copyrighted images, material, lyrics, soundsamples and ceased use of The Artist’s identifying Symbol, they could face legal action.
The warning’s deadline for webmasters to comply, supposedly the first of three steps to dissuade site operators, expired yesterday (Thursday, March 25). The next stage is expected to involve court summons.
But one of the webmasters involved told nme.com that he believed some of the site operators would “take this as far as they can go”. Some see it as a test of free speech on the internet, and they fear it could be seen as ammuniton for other companies to clamp down on fan sites.
Charles Battle, webmaster behind Live Lyrics, says he received the warning e-mail last Friday (March 20), and contacted The Artist’s lawyer. He says she told him that The Artist was concerned about unauthorised profits being made from his music and likeness, and wanted to clamp down on it.
“She asked me what my site consisted of, and I said that it was lyrics and pictures. I didn’t have any soundfiles, I’m a tape-trader [non profit trading of home-made compilation tapes]… she said the situation had changed a bit, and you could use his name when you were directly referring to him. She said he was concerned with people who were profiting from his music or from his likeness.”
Battle says he understood The Artist’s desire to curb piracy of his material, but believed the former-Prince was risking a backlash amongst his most loyal fans.
“I understand his position, that people are profiting from his material… but he’s always been about the music first, and we’re sharing that music he’s created.”
The e-mail sent last week to the webmasters from The Artist’s legal counsel, L Londell McMillan, includes the following warnings:
“… It has recently come to our attention that you have been proliferating material through the Internet and otherwise that contains copyrighted material owned by the Artist including, but not limited to, the Artist’s name, likeness or recordings (the “Unauthorized Material”) without any authorization from Paisley Park to do so. You are hereby put on notice that the dissemination of any such Unauthorized Material without the prior express authorization from Paisley Park may cause immediate and irreparable harm to Paisley Park’s reputation and to the Artist’s valuable proprietary right in his name, image and likeness and would also constitute a willful violation of both federal and state unfair competition laws.
“Accordingly, we hereby demand the following of you and any person or entity with which you are affiliated: (1) that you immediately cease and desist from the dissemination, copying, or commercial exploitation of the Unauthorized Material; (2) deliver to us all such copies, including the packaging therefor which are in your possession and control; (3) that you deliver to us all such copies of Unauthorized Material which come into your possession and control; (4) that you secure the return of all such copies from any person or entities; (5) that you remove all Unauthorized Material from your web pages or web sites. We further demand that you advise us, immediately, of what steps you will take to prevent the dissemination or further distribution or exploitation of the Unauthorized Materials by you, any affiliates or related entities.”
NME.com contacted L Londell McMillan by telephone on Thursday but no response was forthcoming.
Several web sites located by nme.com have changed their content since the legal notices were sent out. Some sites have changed The Artist’s copyrighted logo (which he began using instead of the name Prince 1993) with other symbols similar to his graphic.
Other sites, however, have continued to post photos, lyrics and other material in contravention of the warnings. No action on court summons has yet been instigated by The Artist’s attorneys, but Battle believes any site providing audio clips of The Artist’s music would certainly find receive further attention from his lawyers.