Computerworld

Prince's Purple rage over YouTube

Prince sues eBay, YouTube and other Internet sites for copyright infringements and charges Web Sheriff to "clean up" the internet.

Prince has a right to protect his copyright, but he may be doing himself a disservice in suing Internet services such as You-Tube, says the Australian Digital Alliance (ADA).

The comment came in response to the star initiating lawsuits in the US and UK against a number of major Web sites, including YouTube and eBay. The suits will be played out over the coming months, as part of a campaign to combat copyright infringement.

Internet watchdog, Web Sheriff, is heading up the online component of the campaign and has overseen the removal of more than 2,000 presumably illegally uploaded videos from YouTube over recent weeks.

Web Sheriff managing director, John Giacobbi, told MediaGuardian.co.uk that the extent of piracy online has become "ridiculous", spanning videos, music downloads, bootleg merchandise and unlicensed mobile phone ring tones.

He also said the action was not intended to place blame on Web users, but that artists should have the right to control their own work, where it is experienced and how their image is portrayed.

A spokesperson for the Australian Digital Alliance, Laura Simes, said although the ADA agrees that artists are entitled to enforce their copyrights and prevent infringement of their works occurring over the internet, it is problematic when takedown notices are used to threaten or persuade people to remove content that is not in fact infringing.

"In matters like this, companies like Web Sheriff need to ensure that only infringing works are targeted," she said.

In the longer term, the ADA believes that new models for remunerating artistic and creative work must be developed. One example it proposes is a system based on traffic rather than existence of specific copies.

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The ADA also points out that in some cases, by seeking to strictly enforce their rights, artists may be doing themselves a disservice.

"Material posted on sites like YouTube can act as a powerful marketing tool, and increase artists' sales by raising awareness of the artist and the artist's works," Simes said.

This sentiment is backed up by Prince fans and Internet users. One member of a Prince fan site suggested that Prince's official site should offer more shared content, and that the Internet is the first place people go to for access to music now.

"It's not like fans haven't publicly asked prince to add videos etc to his own Web site. Alienation will just hurt him in the end. This is the digital age, where as soon as something gets dropped, it will pop up somewhere else."

Another fan thinks rapper Chuck D said it best: "when he said 'tryin' to stop illegal downloads is like tryin' to stop the rain!' One way or another people will get what they want from the Net. There are so many less known P2P programs out there to choose from, not to mention a lot of Web sites that offer direct downloads."

'Vicious88' wonders on AfterDawn whether Prince will stop at You Tube, eBay and Pirate Bay.

"Next it will be Yahoo LAUNCHcast, then iFilm, then radio and MTV. I know Prince would like us to swipe a credit card through our MP3 players before every song and pay the artist a dollar, but this is real life, not that world of pretend that Prince is living in."

YouTube chief counsel Zahavah Levine declined to speak specifically about the Prince Lawsuit, but he said that YouTube has great partnerships with major music labels all over the world that understand the benefit of using YouTube as another way to communicate with their fans.

"Most content owners understand that we respect copyrights. We work every day to help them manage their content, and we are developing state-of-the-art tools to let them do that even better," he said.