A little over a month ago the media released information about musician Prince suing 22 people on the grounds of infringing his copyrights, which was done through posting his bootlegged concerts on internet social platforms such as Facebook and blogs (http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/prince-sues-bootlegging-facebook-fans-for-22-million-in-piracy-lawsuit-9088733.html). The Symbol Man appears to be quite serious about it, as he wants more or less 1 million dollars from each ‘offender’.
This action once again called for a debate regarding the connections between the internet, copyrights and file-sharing.
People old or curious enough certainly know of Metallica vs Napster case. The band sued the peer-to-peer file-sharing platform for illegal distribution of their music – even though the people using the service were actually behind sharing the music, not Napster itself. Metallica won, but their reputation was tarnished in the outcome, as it had been long known before for allowing fans to record their shows, and for a bigger chunk of the band’s history, was not openly against bootlegging.
By comparing the two cases, I can see that Prince is choosing even more dangerous path than Metallica did, as he attacks the fans directly. Undoubtedly, piracy acts related to proper releases of an artist are crimes, and people involved will have to deal with consequences (if caught). However, I personally believe that amateur live show recordings – legally – belong to the gray area. To be honest these only help, if anything, artists to gain even more popularity and/or money as they might convince people to buy a new CD or go to a concert themselves.
I used to amass Guns N’ Roses bootlegged concerts and I did manage to rack up 100 + different live recordings in audio or video. I must say that the quality of the majority of those was dreadful. These bootlegs had a value only to collectors and maybe hardcore fans; they weren’t worth any money, really. At this point I have to bring up Metallica once more, as currently the band has a website which provides links to live downloads (for $$$). I haven’t tried it yet, but I imagine these are professional recordings, which do not sound like a microphone drowning in the water.
Concerts offer different kind of experience than studio albums and people love them, which is why live albums usually sell well. If a band does not provide fans with any of these, bootlegging becomes the only option for listeners.
Prince wants to wage a war he will not be able to possibly win. With the internet as it is now, I reckon the issues of copyright and piracy cannot be only treated on the legal grounds. No one wants to work for free, but come on.
One of the most memorable South Park episodes ‘Christian Rock Hard’ discusses the illegal downloading of music. They boys get caught by FBI and then learn how Lars Ulrich of Metallica has to wait few months until he can afford a shark tank bar next to the pool or how Britney Spears’ private jet doesn’t have a remote control for its DVD system, all because the kids participated in pirating of music…
I suppose Prince could change his approach and go for Axl Rose stance. Back in the early 1990s when Guns N’ Roses were huge, Axl couldn’t stand people using camcorders during the shows. He often stopped shows to point out to individuals who were recording the concerts. His most infamous stunt came on a show in St. Louis. He jumped off the stage to beat up a guy with a camera. Then the band stopped playing and they left. A full-blown riot in the city followed.
At least be a man Prince and take things into your own hands like badasses do, don’t use courthouses!