In yet another battle for control of his name, image, and funkadelic music catalog, the artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince has launched an attack on the internet.
Teaming up with Web Sheriff, the firm currently known as "Europe's leading internet policing specialist," the Minnesota-born pop star has already ordered YouTube and eBay to remove hundreds of supposedly Prince-infringing web items, and he's intent on filing suit against the two web behemoths - not to mention Swedish BitTorrent tracker The Pirate Bay.
Web Sheriff chieftain John Giacobbi says the artist's latest crusade is a natural extension of his famous scuffle with mega-record label Warner Brothers over the rights to his name. "The Warner Brothers battle left its scars, but it also made him a lot more savvy in terms of protecting his rights," Giacobbi told The Reg. "That dispute was about records and CDs, and now that we're into the digital age, he's fighting for his online rights."
Acting on Prince's behalf, Web Sheriff has used the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act to remove close to 2,000 YouTube videos that purportedly infringe on the pop star's copyrights. The trouble, Giacobbi says, is that new infringers keep popping up. "You can get things down to zero," he explained. "But then the next day, there's another 100, 200, 500. So Prince is left to police YouTube ad infinitum."
In similar fashion, the firm has called on eBay to shut down countless Prince-related auctions. "If a fan wants to sell his 25-year-old copy of 'Purple Rain,' that's fine," Giacobbi explained. "But then you have Chinese sweatshops selling 'Purple Rain' carrier bags. We've had to get rid of Prince clocks, Prince socks, mouse mats, and mugs."
The head Web Sheriff is adamant that both YouTube and eBay should have technologies in place that automatically filter copyright-infringing material, and Prince is willing to sue to get such tools in place. "There will be separate suits against both YouTube and eBay," Giacobbi insisted. "Unless they want to smell the coffee first and start protecting his rights."
Of course, the Google-owned YouTube is already facing a three-pronged suit in New York, and it's apparently hard at work on a brand new video-fingerprinting tool designed to block copyrighted content.
And for eBay? Building a tool that tracks copyright infringing auctions is a bit more difficult.
The Pirate Bay is also a separate issue. Unlike YouTube and eBay, the file-sharing service isn't the sort of operation that responds to take-down notices. "If you'll excuse my language," Giacobbi told us, "they basically tell everyone to fuck off."
So Web Sheriff and Prince have enlisted a Swedish law firm to tackle the site in Swedish court, and they may sue in the U.S. as well. "Somebody had to take a stand," Giacobbi said. "And Prince is doing it."
Of course, he's not exactly the only one. The irony here is that Prince has now sided with the big record labels. They've been to known to sue music-sharing sites too. ®