Lawyers acting on behalf of Prince have sent out a flurry of US copyright infringement notifications to individual members of a popular UK website which encourages its community to create satirical images of well-known stars.
A number of users of b3ta.com have been slapped with DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) notifications after posting images that poke fun at the pint-sized popstar's ongoing crusade to rid the internet of unauthorised Prince material.
B3ta co-founder Rob Manuel told The Register that he was "surprised Prince's lawyers had bitten".
But the legal cudgels worked. In a posting on the site today, Manuel wrote.
Under threat of legal action from Princes legal team of "potential closure of your web site" - We have removed the Prince image challenge and B3ta apologises unreservedly to AEG / NPG and Prince for any offence caused. We also ask our members to avoid photoshoping Prince and posting them on our boards.
Users of the website had overwhelmingly voted for Prince as their "image challenge of the week" in response to his legal attempts to take down unauthorised fan sites.
The DMCA notifications claim that B3ta had infringed multiple copyright (pirate, unauthorised and libellous) owned by Prince, his record label NPG and entertainment group AEG.
But Manuel argued that the legal noise being made by Prince against his fans was counterproductive. He said: "It's what often happens online - web censorship blows up in the censor's face."
Although the notifications do not fall under UK legal jurisdiction, Web Sheriff, which issued the DMCAs on behalf of Prince's lawyers, claimed that the individuals could be sued in a US court if they failed to respond to the take-down request.
Indeed, Kim Walker, intellectual property head at law firm Pinsent Masons pointed out that while the DMCA itself could not be enforced in a British court, the claim itself still carried water.
He said: "The copyright laws in the UK are pretty strict. Many people assume that images can be used for parody or satire, but that's not the case.
"While the UK has a concept of 'fair dealing', it stops short of authorising parody and satire. Many people think that should change - but that's the way it is for now."
Web Sheriff's John Gaicobbi told El Reg that B3ta and its users had overstepped the mark.
He said: "I don't think the people who posted them would like to be on receiving end of that kind of treatment.
"There's poking fun and there's poking fun and people are clearly taking it too far and crossing over the boundaries of what is acceptable."
In recent months Prince has stomped on Pirate Bay, an 18-month-old baby having a boogie to one of his songs on YouTube and three of his most popular unauthorised fan websites. ®