Update 1/29: TMZ is reporting that Prince has withdrawn this lawsuit—though “without prejudice,” meaning that he reserves the right to re-file the suit if and when he feels like it. “Because of the recent pressure,” Prince’s attorney told TMZ, “the bootleggers have now taken down the illegal downloads and are no longer engaging in piracy.” Meanwhile, Prince went ahead and shared a 30-second preview of a new 3RDEYEGIRL song…because, you know, it’s all about the music.
Prince has always been extremely protective of his copyrighted music, and the Minnesota megastar has just lobbed a lawsuit at 22 fans—20 of them anonymous—for “massive infringement and bootlegging of Prince’s material.” The artist is seeking $1 million—a massive sum, even by the already hefty standard set by previous music-piracy lawsuits—from each defendant, in addition to any profits (likely to be scarce) the defendants might have realized through the distribution of Prince’s music.
What makes this lawsuit (first reported by Consequence of Sound) unusual among the many various music-industry actions filed against users who share illegal recordings each year is that Prince, in this case, is suing fans who merely posted links to illegal recordings—not just fans who actively uploaded or hosted files. Prince seems to believe that the defendants are also responsible for the uploading of the files, but he doesn’t believe he needs to prove that to have grounds for legal action—the lawsuit only cites evidence of the sharing of links. “Defendants constitute an interconnected network of bootleg distribution,” according to the complaint, “which is able to broadly disseminate unauthorized copies of Prince’s musical compositions and live performances.”
Further, the bootlegs Prince is concerned about here aren’t just illegal rips of studio albums—they include many recordings of concerts, some of poor quality and decades old, the kind of recordings likely to be prized only by the Purple One’s biggest fans.
“The Defendants rely on either Google’s Blogger platform or Facebook, or both,” reads the suit, “to accomplish their unlawful activity. Blogger is a service provided by Google that allows individuals to create personal blogs. Defendants, rather than publishing lawful content to their blogs, typically publish posts that list all the songs performed at a certain Prince live show and then provide a link to a file sharing service where unauthorized copies of the performance can be downloaded.”
Prince has been much in the news of late; in addition to a much-hyped guest spot on an episode of New Girl to be broadcast after the Super Bowl, he’s planning a mini-tour of London and a new album recorded with his group 3RDEYEGIRL. The London tour will be preceded by a press conference at which he’ll likely face questions about this strong-handed legal action. The full complaint, filed on January 16 in the Northern District of California—where Google and Facebook are based—is below.