Let’s Talk About Prince

What I am showing you here is basically a feat. I say this because Prince wallows in the idea of Copyright ownership.

As I talked about in class, UMPG Publishing and Prince have been known to not appreciate when anything that might be owned by them is posted without their permission. If you were to look up a popular Prince song, you will probably be met by something unfamiliar, like a completely different song, even over the official music video for the song that it was for. Sometimes they will straight up have the song muted. And this is entirely within their rights. Under copyright law, any posting of the song that has not been authorized, whether it be youtube or otherwise, is illegal and breaks the DMCA. Technically, they could do a lot worse to people who do that.

The big issue, however, comes to some other things that Prince and his publishing company have done under the same laws. See, not only will you get in trouble for having his song dubbed over your video, but if a song of his is even in his video BY ACCIDENT, he will take it down.


This leads into the famous case where he covered Radiohead’s “Creep” at Coachella, before taking it upon himself to remove any recordings of the cover from youtube. This of course pissed of Radiohead, because it was THEIR song, and they should be able to say if it should be taken down or not. (as a side not, Prince’s defense for his actions was that, because he changed one or two words in the song, it became his own version, therefor he could do with it what he wants)


This is the infamous gray area in Copyright Law. It’s hard to tell where Prince’s action of obsessively deleting anything not verified by him lands between Copyright Infringement and Fair Use. He’s within his rights to take down when full songs are played, but what about clips? What about covers? What about if someone left their radio on during a Vlog? To some degree, they are being quite extreme with their coverage of the songs being posted on the internet, and where taking down other people posting your own things can become, paradoxically, a breaking of it’s own law.

This seems to have calmed down in recent years, as some videos (like the one above) are able to slip through the cracks. It can be speculated why, but the most likely answer is probably recent press of Prince’s actions and personality, particularly a story that was released by Kevin Smith on working with him. But there are still countless videos removed, even though they could possibly be within their own fair use rights to have them up. So is Prince right to do this? Or should he really loosen his studio’s iron grip over his product, and let people do what they want with his songs? It’s an answer that some might not find that easy to answer…

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One Response to Let’s Talk About Prince

  1. wlbranch2 says:

    I find it interesting that Prince goes on record saying the internet is not going anywhere after 10+ years of the internet changing the world. It’s consistent with the way of life we live. Prince releases some CDs and tracks on ITunes. If he needs the money yes he should be more than willing to share his music with the world, yet he might not need the money. Maybe he is exhibiting “technological determinism”, still I can not imagine him not wanting millions upon millions of people to experience his past hits like “KISS”, or “When Doves Cry”, or “Purple Rain”… Wait a minute, I think I might have been mistaken. You know what? I am, his old record company [Warner Bros.] owns the rights for those songs. He has had public battles with his old record company, looking for more control of his creations.


    Maybe he is being protective of his songs because he does not like relinquishing the creative direction of his songs in the age of remixing. Still if he does that with RadioHead’s (a band that self distributed one of their albums online for a donation of any monetary amount from fans – UPON RELEASE!!) song “Creep”, covers it and then makes it to where no one can listen to it then I do not know of a better example of being a Hypocrite.


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