The Royal Wake-up Call
Reports of Prince suing fans and internet companies continue to arrive daily. Many suggest that Prince is trying to hold onto an analogue music world controlled by copyright. I wonder if that’s so. The physical world is more controlled than ever with CCTV, DNA, GPS, intelligent barcoding etc. Yet, quixotically we seem to believe in (or is that surrender?) to the notion that the internet should be an unregulated world, where anyone can do everything without consequences; that everything out there belongs to everybody and has no value. The corollary is that musicians and the industry need to devise new ways of making money such as touring and merchandise.
I don’t subscribe yet to that future. Although it has taken time to catch up, there’s evidence that the internet doesn’t have to be lawless. The problem is that as long as we allow this perception to prevail it will continue to attract criminals, paedophiles and opportunists. Illegal filesharing kills the value of IP like counterfeiting kills the value of money and that’s all there is to it. And that’s why we don’t allow anyone to copy money.
Is Prince giving us a wake up call to say “don’t give up”? Remember, Prince was one of the first artists to endorse internet-only distribution which makes it even harder to understand what he’s up to now.
I believe Prince wants his rights to belong to him for much the same reason as he fought Warners some years ago. What’s more he seems to be winning. In the first days of his clash with Youtube, deleted clips returned the same day until frustrated culprits finally tired of setting up new accounts such that Youtube is now Prince-free. Ok, the clips moved to sites like Dailymotion.com,but the same thing is happening there and to similar sites. Suddenly, it appears that Youtube & co can be controlled.
Where to from here? If anyone is still taking notice Prince may well turn out to be the industry’s martyr proving that rights can be preserved albeit at a high personal price as Metallica discovered when they took a robust stance against file sharers, many of whom were their fans.