November 13, 2007 9:33 AM PST

Prince: The artist who formerly liked the Internet

Pop music star Prince was long considered an Internet innovator and a friend to the culture of free file sharing.

He was among the first major recording artists to sell music online. This summer, Prince distributed more than 2 million free copies of his album Planet Earth as part of a newspaper promotion in the United Kingdom. Last year, he was honored with a Webby Lifetime Achievement Award for his "visionary use of the Internet to distribute music."

Prince was a pioneer in his efforts to give away music in order to promote concerts and merchandise. Long after he gave online distribution a shot, bands like Radiohead have, as recently as last month, made headlines with a similar plan.

But Prince, one of America's most successful recording artists for three decades, seems to have had a dramatic change of heart. Within the next few days, he is expected to cap an aggressive two-month legal campaign to protect his copyright by suing The Pirate Bay, a popular BitTorrent tracking site best known for helping people find unauthorized copies of music and movies. As reported Friday by CNET, Prince plans to sue The Pirate Bay in three countries for encouraging copyright violations--the United States, France, and Sweden, where the Pirate Bay is based.

"Do a Google search on Lars Ulrich. Look at all of the millions of negative things they wrote about him. It's all right. We're used to it."
--Rick Carnes, president, Songwriters Guild of America

In a matter of months, Prince has achieved the unenviable distinction of being the musician with the most combative stance against file-sharing networks since Lars Ulrich, drummer for heavy-metal band Metallica, waved a list of 335,000 Napster screen names outside that company's Silicon Valley office in 2000.

But determining exactly why Prince decided to get tough with Internet piracy isn't easy. A representative for the musician said he wasn't available to discuss his views. In fact, he very rarely gives interviews. But the people helping his case say Prince has to take a stand, as unpopular as it may be.

"Prince is obliged to come up with the plan because no one else has done anything about this blatant piracy," said John Giacobbi, president of Web Sheriff, the antipiracy firm Prince hired to coordinate his copyright fights. "These guys are operating a huge piracy operation, but Prince means business. The Pirate Bay has had the ballpark to themselves for far too long."

Frustrated artists, cranky fans
File sharers who are now cursing Prince should remember that for nearly 10 years he has tried to solve a problem that has stumped the beleaguered record industry: how can you make money from digital music?

Prince was the first major artist to distribute an album exclusively online, though he later decided to release the record on disc. He continued releasing music over the Web after leaving his record label, Warner Bros., in the mid-1990s. It was only last summer, after giving away millions of albums for free, that a spokesman told The New York Times that "Prince's only aim is to get music direct to those that want to hear it."

Some believe Prince was disappointed by his online experiments. Whatever revenue he generated from Web sales doesn't appear to have been enough to prevent him from going to the record labels for help distributing his music on CD. Sony was due to release Planet Earth in the United Kingdom this year but backed out when Prince inked a deal with Britain's Sunday Mail to include a copy of the album with every newspaper circulated on July 15. The promotion also angered the country's music retailers.

Online distribution arrangements developed by other musicians have yielded mixed results as well. Last month, the British band Radiohead told fans to download its album In Rainbows and pay whatever they wanted. ComScore, an Internet tracking service, reported last week that it estimated only 38 percent of those who downloaded paid anything at all. Radiohead's representatives responded on Friday by saying ComScore's data was "wholly inaccurate." Accurate or not, it wasn't the first--and not likely the last--novel music distribution idea that has disappointed.

Perhaps Prince decided the time for experimentation was over. In September, he announced he was planning to sue YouTube, The Pirate Bay, and eBay for allegedly encouraging people to violate copyright. Since then he has sent cease-and-desist orders to YouTube and unauthorized fan sites. Each order requested removal of copyright content he claimed to own.

Other moves by the longtime musician have drawn hostile responses from fans. Critics ripped Prince after his handlers sent a take-down notice to a Pennsylvania woman who had posted a video clip of her baby dancing to a few seconds of the Prince rocker "Let's Go Crazy." The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit focusing on civil liberties issues on the Internet, filed a suit on behalf of the woman, alleging that Prince had violated the woman's free speech because her use of his song was protected under fair-use provisions of copyright law.

Rick Carnes, president of the Songwriters Guild of America, said Prince should expect to take some public-relations hits. After all, a headline about him suing the mother alongside a photo of a baby boy bopping to a snippet of Prince's music just isn't going to play well. But Carnes argues this is another example of how file sharers persecute the victim. If Prince is mistakenly chasing mothers and their home movies, Carnes points out, it's likely an unfortunate mistake brought about by his attempts to protect his music from more lethal threats.

A great deal of Prince's material is indeed being exchanged online. A check of The Pirate Bay on Monday turned up links to unauthorized versions of Prince's 1984 hit film Purple Rain, several concert performances, and multiple albums. Prince has to stick to his guns no matter what is written about him, declares Carnes.

"Of course there is a risk to Prince," Carnes said. "Prince is going to be completely destroyed on the Internet by the system that they got in place to dismantle artists who speak up for their rights. Do a Google search on Lars Ulrich. Look at all of the millions of negative things they wrote about him. It's all right. We're used to it."

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Prince who?
His music & popularity has forever faded, now he's doing whatever
he can to make headlines. It's time to get in that little red corvette
& head to the old folks home, sorry Prince your time has come &
Posted by Bryce Mirtle (29 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The tide changes...
When the artist gives away his wares for years, he's the best. But once he pulls his wares from the "free" category, he's an arshole and a has-been. I don't understand the logic applied by some people.
Posted by groink_hi (380 comments )
Link Flag
Someone must still like his music or they wouldn't be stealing it.
Posted by Spork_This1 (11 comments )
Link Flag
Why Steal it when he's giving it away.
I guess I can understand Prince's frustration. As a longtime fan, and I buy or received free through his promotions, his music.

When he's giving it away through promotions why pirate the music? That is a learned bad behavior. He has given many opportunities to legally get the music, and support him as a artist by showing:
1. He has the marketshare to still sell music
2. Buying the other items like t-shirts and concert tickets

I think you can be a visionary, and still not tolerate theft.
Posted by jiminca (4 comments )
Link Flag
Lazy Bastard
Your quote of the situation is perfect "Prince was a pioneer in his efforts to give away music in order to promote concerts and merchandise."

You make the BIG money is selling your brand and not in having the label peddle disks.

Get over it and get you butt back on the road. Didn't Prince have the 1K seat price for small venue concerts?

Shame on him.
Posted by Stephen Russell (36 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Prince deserves to be paid
I totally support Prince's efforts. He has a right to benefit from
his prodigious talents. Being Internet friendly and being a mark
for thieves are not synonymous.

Only someone out of touch would need to ask who Prince is. He
is one of few artists who's careers began in the 1970s who is still
producing excellent new material.
Posted by J.G. (837 comments )
Reply Link Flag
off base
Sorry.. but Prince has gone off the deep end. I can understand
things like the Pirate Bay and even use of songs that give Prince a
negative image (like promoting hate, etc).

But come on, Prince is attacking his own fan sites, demanding that
pictures of him (even ones taken by fans) be taken down. That's
not just protecting your works, that's just nuts.
Posted by m.meister (278 comments )
Link Flag
How many times should he be paid
For a single song?
Posted by MSSlayer (1074 comments )
Link Flag
the poor multi-millionaires
the poor Princes account, his poor $150 million dollar fortune is barely enough to get by...gas is up, you know.

The way you make music, is from your fans. When you tick people off, and have less fans, I expect you should make less money.

I remember the old prince fondly, but I have no plans to purchase anything this guy does ever again...the bitter geezer out there now, is not the Prince I knew as a youth.
Posted by rdupuy11 (908 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"What's went wrong?"
You did!

Only Prince has the right to give away his music. No one else automatically has this right. Strange how the media is encouraging this behavior. What will happen when people starting pirating your (writers) content?

we shall see.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by goople (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
it is automatic with writing
When copyrights expire, and they do have an expiration, the material goes into the public domain, and the public automatically has the right to copy it freely.

That was always the balance between the needs of the public and those of the content producer.

That same idea will apply to music. Nevermind getting caught into the idea of right and wrong....

Artists want to maximize their profitability...which is exactly why Prince gave away his music.

Sure he can change his mind...and sure the laws can be rewritten to favor the public...all these things can be done.

But without getting into those theories...the fact is, as a practical matter, society is changing, and giving away music, and profiting from concerts and merchandise, is the new business model that works.
Posted by rdupuy11 (908 comments )
Link Flag
Goople commented:

"Only Prince has the right to give away his music. No one else
automatically has this right."

Wait a second here - how can you accuse people of stealing and
piracy when they're dealing with something that was free to
begin with? Talk about a double standard!

The thing formerly known as the artist formerly known as prince
has had his day in the sun. I haven't heard anything from him in
a while, except for this lawsuit garbage - against his own fans
nonetheless! It's just wrong to try to force a profit through
lawsuits for garbage that no one wants anyway.
Posted by Dalkorian (3000 comments )
Link Flag
Prince stinks
suing your fans didn't work for Metallica either, there was a massive boycott and they lost a lot of revenue.

Let us now boycott Prince!
Posted by ParallaxRebel (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
RE: Prince:-The-artist-who-formerly-liked-the-Internet
Earth to Prince. The fans made you and the fans can break you.
You are quickly becoming irrelevant in the music world. The music
industry needs a good wake up call. Most of the garbage you
produce is no more unique than the new house down the street
from me.
Posted by protagonistic (1868 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Prince is an odd one....
What is it with these strange high pitched male pop singers from
the 80s?
Posted by gsmiller88 (624 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Piracy has always existed in the net in one form or another but the once hobby of a few loose nerds has blossomed into a multi million dollar problem for both the record industry and the motion picture industry and it looks like it's going to get a lot worst before it gets any better.
Posted by thedreaming (573 comments )
Reply Link Flag
its not about business models
it's about copyright violation.

New business models are beside the point.

...and there are emerging "societies" that believe in killing to make a point...should they pass laws to enable this as well?
Posted by goople (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
you tell me
You you tell me what was free, and what the terms were.

Don't make wild ASSumptions.
Posted by goople (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Remember when Metallica tried essentially the same thing about 6 years ago by suing Napster? That was the beginning of the end of free music downloads. It shut down the easiest method (ever) of downloading free music and forced the file sharers underground and made everyone use crappy services like Kazaa and Gnutella. Lots more outrage at the time than this, but what's happened since then? Nothing! I don't think Metallica has done a whole lot since then (I may be wrong) besides continuing to count their money. You can call him a moron, but Prince is going to come out ahead. What does he have to lose? Might as well get used to this sort of thing. Between the RIAA and (some) artists, it's going to be a while before this shakes out.
Posted by bschmidt25 (81 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I too feel I haven't heard anything worth file sharing or buying from Prince in decades, but I do admire his willingness to be controversial. I'm still waiting for a major artist to sue the RIAA for not doing enough to protect their copyrights. The RIAA member organizations had a hand in designing and settling on standards for digital files. At the time, they all marveled at how this was going to make music cheaper and more accessible. In fact, this was the argument made to get everyone to abandon cassette tapes for CDs. The irony here is, the price of a cd was more than an album or cassette. It still is today! I say the record companies made a bundle when the manufacturing cost went from 2 to 3 dollars per unit to 15 to 20 cents per unit. I didn't hear them complaining then. As an artist myself, I feel that the record companies haven't embraced online distribution yet is that they haven't figured out a way to match those kinds of margins and of course screw the consumer and the artist at the same time.
I guess the real point here is that the RIAA built and opened their own Pandora's box...I can't wait for the day when everyone buys their music directly from the artists. A guy with a reoutation like Prince should have no problem doing this. Of course once it is digital and on the internet, it's fair game.....
Posted by cidman2001 (223 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Prince - formerly known as an artist?
He's been off the charts for years and changing his name to "the artist" was more detrimental to his career in my opinion. His chances of succeeding against pirate bay is slim considering they've already withstood heavy hitters like the RIAA. Mr. Sandler, I've got a new movie for you after that job you did in the waterboy.

But, I'll give the man credit for his musical achievements back in the 80's, for his pioneering work in providing music via the internet, and for the good he's done the industry as a whole. Perhaps it's time for him to retire on past laurels.
Posted by Seaspray0 (9714 comments )
Reply Link Flag
he doesnt want the not to perfect pics to get out
The problem is he wants the not so good pics of him taken by fans to get a wider distribution! so if he isnt looking perfect those pics dont get the light of day
Posted by snoonw (78 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Prince and lars
they have a similar thing in common.

Lars Ulrich said over and over if it hasn't been for the bootlegged tapes and free exchange of Metallicas' music, they wouldn't be the 'mega-band' they are. Then when he/they became famous, the goes after the bootleggers and music exchangers. That is called being hypocritical.

Prince, after passing his music around freely, and encouraging file sharing, now is saying FOUL because that is exactly what is happening, and wants to take his ball and go home. Also, the video clip of the dancing baby... if it hadn't been for the article saying what song it was, I wouldn't have known.
Posted by Anysia (104 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree
I agree that these two people, need to get out there start performing again, and earn there huge bucks, like some great old bands like Rolling Stones. They are just trying to take the easy way out and get more money than they deserve for there work. It would be like me getting paid over and over for getting road service to a customer that I serviced years ago. Thats just insane.
Posted by donegan01 (3 comments )
Link Flag
Wake up!
cidman2001 stated the truth. I honestly believe that since the first record company was established they have milked the cash to the max. They made incredible money cheating us with absurd prices for an album or song. SOMEWHERE ALONG IN A "LIFETIME" THINGS JUST BALANCE OUT. For the record industry this is what's happening. Samething for the movie industry. YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW!
Posted by ED2KSR (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
At last...
Thanks for agreeing with the obvious. I like the thought of it just being some kind of natural financial rebalancing...sounds fair to me! I think it's funny that Sony (major RIAA,MPAA member) also manufactures hardware to make copies of the media they'resuing people for sharing. I'd say they've got some nerve!
Posted by cidman2001 (223 comments )
Link Flag
Perhaps, but...
I work with a lot of musicians. While I think they get the short end of the stick from the record companies, I do believe that they deserve to get paid for what they do. How would you like to go to work and not get paid? "Yes, I'd like to be idolized and harassed but never compensated for my time, thanks."
Posted by Spork_This1 (11 comments )
Link Flag
A long period of consideration.
New musicians want to play for a living. How can they do that when people would rather rip them off because they feel justified that they are actually sticking it to the man? Prince may not be on the top of the pile these days but his work is his. If someone ripped off my artwork, I'd be cheesed. I have paintings I have poured my heart and soul into and to me there is far more value in them than I will probably ever get paid for, so yeah, he's within his rights. Get over it.
Posted by Spork_This1 (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Keep swatting at those fan sites
and alienating the fans that buy the music and he won't have to worry cause he won't have a career...well not a paying one anyway.
No amount of walking around in assless pants will save him then.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Now that I must wholeheartedly agree with.
Posted by Spork_This1 (11 comments )
Link Flag
Diminishing Returns
I propose to all artists and record companies that you price all items on a diminishing scale. Today, I'll pay 99 cents for a song I really like - sans DRM.

Twenty-five years from now, that song should only cost me about three cents.

Isn't there a "public domain" document agreement that after 25 years, any music can be used for any purpose without compensation? I might be wrong about that. Am I way off?

Either way, Prince is not befriending many with this action. I agree he can stand up for his rights as much as he wants. He is entitled to whatever he has created and should be compensated fairly. But if Pirate Bay goes down, something else will rise up and take its place.

Whether or not Lars Ulrich made any friends with his retaliatory stance, everyone remembers what he did. He stood up for his rights as an artist.

Admirable...if not questionable.

Tally HO!
Posted by DAL (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
you can thank Mickey for no public domain
Sorry.. music (or any copyright for that matter) has a very, very long
life. It's something like life of author + 50 years or some ungodly
length for corporations.

Basically, every time Mickey is about to be put in the Public Domain,
Disney puts lots of money in the pockets of Congressmen who then
extend copyrights for another 50+ years for that date.

Of course, the true irony is that many of the "Disney classics" are
based on work that was in the public domain. So Disney benefited
from works entering into the public domain and then made sure it
would never happen again.
Posted by m.meister (278 comments )
Link Flag
Lol I knew this would happen
I knew this would happen. First, he embrace's the give away culture because its rebellious in spirit and makes the kiddies happy. Then reality settles in. You cant pay for the million dollar mortgage, in house chef, flashy clothes and lavish vacations if you're giving things away for free and allowing for unleashed pirating. At least bands like Metallica understood the reality behind the give it away free attitude and what it can lead to.
Posted by stockyjoe (640 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Give away is not piracy
Giving songs away you own is not piracy or opening up your entire catalog of work to all of a sudden be free.

If you created a work of art and then gave it away for promotion does that mean all your art is now to be given away.

You are an idiot.
Posted by WebGlue (10 comments )
Link Flag
Adapt or die
I understand the arguments put forward by Prince and Lars on their respective rights on what they produce. I have as well no sympathy for people making money stealing somebody elses work, although I do not put people downloading music only for themselves in the same cathegory. What is needed is for the mechanics of the music business to adapt to this trend, the internet is staying, people will download, control has shifted and so should the music business practises. Protect your rights, but not at all costs, suing a single woman sharing 20 songs, posting 20 sec of your music or a bad picture of you is not relevant. Start by lowering your prices to a reasonable level, put out quality music and do not only look for music appreciated by the largest number of people, it just dilutes the quality, think hard how to use the internet in an innovative way, not in terms of direct return on investment...
Posted by Chaku01 (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Songs IP too
Music is no different then any other art intellectual property. Your bizzare logic (and spelling) is absurd.

"I understand the arguments put forward by Prince and Lars on their respective rights on what they produce. I have as well no sympathy for people making money stealing somebody elses work, although I do not put people downloading music only for themselves in the same cathegory"

So if you steal a painting from museum only for your own use is that ok?

If you steal pack of cigarettes from the store just for yourself is that ok?

Theft is theft bonehead. Property and art belongs to the person creating it and saying that music is different then any other property is wrong.

If you want to change prices of music you don't accomplish that by stealing it...

Imagine if someone stole something you owned how you would feel?

WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE... and get a dictionary...
Posted by WebGlue (10 comments )
Link Flag
I appreciate your comments
I understand most of what you are writing here and appreciate it. My goal personally is to "get my message across" by getting my music heard. Part of the way to do this is to use the massive amounts of exposure one gets by individually employing the internet and its manifold sites/spaces. Eventually, some money may be made. There is, of course, a learning curve we all must traverse as we adapt to changes in our environments. As marketing trends continue to change, we must all embrace the #2 mode of transportation, namely, the web. #1 mode is God, Himself, Navigator Extraordinaire. He always gets you where He wants you to go. Please visit me at and I hope you enjoy the music.
Posted by jillriter (2 comments )
Link Flag
I don't see any contradiction
Prince simply wanted the artist to have control and freedom from
external forces, be it the record company or pirates.

I f an artist wants to put their stuff out for free on the internet,
then it should be on their terms, and no one else's. Whats so
hard to understand about that?

Look at Radiohead. They offered their latest album for anything
you wanted to pay for it (the minimum to pay was for the
transaction fee) but still it was circulated to piratebay and other
free sites. That is not right.
Posted by veggiedude--2008 (330 comments )
Reply Link Flag
proof that prince is a hypocrite
isn't this the same guy (i use the term 'guy' loosely here) who gave an album away FOR FREE as a newspaper insert? why yes it is. here is the article, with a GREAT QUOTE proving his hypocrisy at the end of it.

Friday June 29, 2007

The Guardian

The eagerly awaited new album by Prince is being launched as a free CD with a national Sunday newspaper in a move that has drawn widespread criticism from music retailers.

The Mail on Sunday revealed yesterday that the 10-track Planet Earth CD will be available with an "imminent" edition, making it the first place in the world to get the album. Planet Earth will go on sale on July 24.

"It's all about giving music for the masses and he believes in spreading the music he produces to as many people as possible," said Mail on Sunday managing director Stephen Miron.


It's all about giving music for the masses and he believes in spreading the music he produces to as many people as possible??
Posted by sadchild (280 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'm not sure you understand
When prince gave away that album he was still compensated by
the newspaper for it. Its would be more accurate to say that the
newspaper paid for a copy of prince's album for every

Whatever the terms of the deal were they were terms that prince
agreed to in advance of the distribution - in other words he
maintained control over the way his music would be distributed.
When someone takes that same album (or any other album) and
posts it on Pirate Bay they are removing that element of control.
They are usurping his rights as a creator of that work.
Posted by rapier1 (2722 comments )
Link Flag
we really don't know
unless we talk to him-- about the ins and outs of his deal/gift of song to everyone. I imagine he gave away these inserts as a promo as well as just a 'here you go, enjoy, on the house!' but I also imagine that he wants to define when his music is given and when it is purchased. It's not unreasonable to ask that your copyright not be violated, is it? It's also alright to give something away when you want to... afterall, it is his music. Now he must feel infringed upon. I think many artists must. I haven't made money on my music yet, but, it has cost something to get it recorded. I've given some away, and very gladly, but would also welcome earning something down the road. But I would like to be the one to say, go ahead, download, or, purchase by clicking here... I don't think he is a hypocrite, from what I've heard so far-- maybe he could explain himself more clearly, however, and then people might not act so indignant toward him. But does he owe that to anyone? If he is unseemly about it, that may just be him. But spreading and/or giving the music for the masses and earning a buck on it are not mutually exclusive.
Posted by jillriter (2 comments )
Link Flag
He probably had to reverse his stance to get a contract renewal.
What is really sad is that music theft has given a bad name to a really great technology.

It's time for the record companies to go after the ADVERTISERS on pirate bay.

I did a test and founr K &#38; N air filters, for example through some media network.

Since the pirates hide in obscure countries, thay may be untouchable. However, their sponsors will drop Pirate Bay like a hot potato(e) ot hot e-potato if challanged..

I can't imagine a fine company like K&#38;N responding to a cease and desist in any other manner than to drop their ads.
Posted by disco-legend-zeke (448 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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