What’s up with Prince? More specifically, what’s up with Prince’s lawyers?
If you’ve been keeping up with the Purple One’s activities as of late, you would think the Artist Formerly Known As A Symbol was unleashing his dogs of law on everyone within his royal line of sight. Mainstream media, music blogs, gossip sites and even technology-oriented publications were reporting that Prince was suing his fans, citing copyright and trademark infringements upon his image, music and person.
It all started two weeks ago when the creators of three Prince fan sites – Princefams.com, Housequake.com and Prince.org – joined together to create PrinceFansUnited.com, claiming that their idol was threatening them with legal action for alleged infringements.
"In an extraordinary, but not unfamiliar move, the rock legend Prince is using an army of lawyers to launch attacks on his own fans," read the site’s November 5th posting. "Several of the largest Web communities dedicated to the artist have received notices to cease and desist all use of photographs, images, lyrics, album covers, and anything linked to Prince’s likeness. It is our belief that these threats are not made in an attempt to enforce valid copyright as Prince alleges in his threats, rather we believe they are attempts to stifle all critical commentary about Prince."
The posting goes on to say Prince representatives "demanded removal of fans’ own photographs of their Prince-inspired tattoos and their vehicles displaying Prince-inspired license plates," and that "Prince’s representatives have requested that the fan sites provide them with ‘substantive details of the means by which you [the fan sites] propose to compensate our clients [Paisley Park Enterprises, NPG Records and the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG)] for damages …"
Sounds pretty serious, doesn’t it?
But even though a cease and desist order is not the same as an actual lawsuit, the media quickly jumped on the meme that Prince was suing his fans.
"Prince wants to sue his fans, undo the Internet," was the message on Salon.com. "Prince Moves To Sue Fan Sites" appeared on Reuters.com November 7th and cnet.com went with the headline "Prince: The Artist Who Formerly Liked The Internet."
So, is he? That is, is Prince suing the fan sites?
Not at this time although it appears that someone repping His Funkiness did issue legal docs to the sites in question. But was that someone doing as Prince instructed?
While Reuters ran a headline claiming Prince was suing fan sites, the news service quoted Web Sheriff’s John Giacobbi as saying, "At no time is Prince suing his fans and this is not about freedom of speech."
The same article quotes Giacobbi as saying the C&Ds did not come from Prince, but from his record label.
That Web Sheriff, an Internet company specializing in protecting its clients’ copyrights and trademarks, is working for Prince is well known. Only a few weeks before the lawsuit debacle broke in the press, the media reported Prince had hired Web Sheriff to track down those who would infringe upon his good name.
But Giacobbi’s remarks still didn’t quiet the "Prince is suing fans" theme, which by that time had been picked up by media in virtually every country on the planet. So another Prince associate had to step in to try to clear things up.
That associate was AEG, which promoted Prince’s September London shows.
"The action taken earlier this week was not to shut down fansites, or control comment in any way," read AEG’s statement. "The issue was simply to do with in regards to copyright and trademark of images and only images and no lawsuits have been filed."
However, sometimes an attempt to put out one fire causes others to erupt. In this case it was another sentence in the same AEG statement mentioning Prince releasing some free material online, stating that the action was bypassing "phony fan sites that exploit both consumers and artists."
Uh? Phony fan sites? What’s up with that?
You have to go back to PrinceFansUnited.com for an answer. In a posting dated the same day as the AEG statement, the fans behind the fan sites said the "phony fan sites" remark was an error on the part of Prince’s PR firm.
"Not only is this statement confusing, libelous and misleading," reads the November 9th posting on PrinceFansUnited.com, "we have actually been informed by Prince’s representatives that his PR company sent this in error last night and it has been picked up by a few key media organisations today."
So, despite what you may have read during the past week or so, Prince is not suing fan sites. In fact, a November 8th posting on PrinceFansUnited.com says the fan site operators are in talks with Prince’s management and that they hope to reach "an amicable resolution."
But an "amicable resolution" doesn’t circulate nearly as fast as "Prince suing fans" zoomed around the globe only days earlier. By now most people probably think Prince has it in for his fans. And no matter how erroneous that may be, that’s the one that’s going to stick in people’s heads for a long time to come.
Piracy Could Cause Schools To Lose Funding
The U.S. House Of Representatives is taking an aggressive stance on peer-to-peer copyright piracy on college and university networks by crafting a piece of legislation calling for schools to lose federal funding if they do not take steps to thwart piracy on campus networks.
The "College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007" also urges colleges and universities to sign up for music subscription services like Rhapsody or Ruckus with the idea being that students won’t pirate via P2P if provided with a legal alternative.
Introduced by representatives George Miller, D-Calif., and Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, the legislation states that if schools do not agree to test technological deterrents for preventing piracy, those institutes would lose federal aid. Collectively, such aid totals approximately $100 billion per year, according to Cnet.
With the bill’s wording calling for all federal funding to be rescinded from a school that doesn’t actively guard its networks against P2P-related copyright infringing activity, students who don’t even own computers could suddenly find themselves without the funds needed to continue their educations.
"Such an extraordinarily inappropriate and punitive outcome would result in all students on that campus losing their federal financial aid – including Pell grants and student loans that are essential to their ability to attend college, advance their education, and acquire the skills necessary to compete in the 21st-century economy," stated a letter to Congress signed by the chancellor of the University of Maryland system, the president of Stanford University, the president of Penn State and the general counsel for Yale University. "Lower-income students, those most in need of federal financial aid, would be harmed most under the entertainment industry’s proposal."
But while university officials expressed their concerns with the proposed legislation, the Motion Picture Association of America applauded lawmakers’ attempts to curtail P2P piracy by cutting off school funding.
"The MPAA commends Chairman Miller for taking this step to protect intellectual property on college campuses," said the organization’s chairman and CEO Dan Glickman. "Intellectual property theft is a worldwide problem that hurts our economy and costs more than 140,000 American jobs every year. We are pleased to see that Congress is taking this step to help keep our economy strong by protecting copyrighted material on college campuses."
Wendy’s Rhapsody Deal
Borrowing a page from the iTunes / Starbucks playbook, Rhapsody and Wendy’s have teamed up to give away up to 100 million songs.
The game plan is simple enough. Customers who purchase a medium or full-size meal at participating Wendy’s stores will also receive a unique code redeemable for any song from Rhapsody’s 4.5 million-tune library. This is one better than the recent Starbucks / iTunes Wireless promotion if only because customers did not get to pick the song.
Along with the free tunes, Wendy’s customers will also be able to enter the "Combo Up To Download" sweepstakes where the prizes include a 50-song download bundle from Rhapsody or one of 100 SanDisk Sansa e280R Rhapsody MP3 players.
"Rhapsody is all about feeding consumers’ passion for music," Rhapsody head honcho Michael Bloom said. "Wendy’s new giveaway lets customers enjoy their favorite food and music, and introduces them to Rhapsody all at once."