How can we forget songs like Purple Rain – you probably sang it in the shower this morning. But lately Prince has been kind of a jerk by filing a copyright infringement lawsuit against 22 individuals (fan websites) and requesting damages of one million dollars against each of them for posting links to his music on the Internet. Now before you scramble to get that illegally downloaded copy of Little Red Corvette (See note below) off your phone – hold on there – the pint size pop star inexplicably dropped the lawsuit without prejudice – meaning he could file it again if he wants to make his fan base even angrier.
One distraught fan had this to say:
“Yes, bootlegging is wrong, but … who is next? Dude will even go after regular ass fans … really sad. Prince will be remembered for making some of the most beautiful music ever created and for hating his fans.”
He may have decided to drop the suit after his lawyers realized that one does not infringe copyright by linking to songs or other materials on the Internet. A link does not create a copy of the material it just takes you to it – the link is like the road that takes you to the bank – you could drive to a bank and rob it – but it wasn’t the road’s fault you robbed the bank. To date no decision in the United States has found that linking would constitute an infringement of copyright – in fact just the opposite has been found. Only the Dutch Courts have found linking to constitute a copyright infringement. And this is what we think of that decision. Now some decisions have held that an individual may be liable for contributory infringement if they post links to material that is clearly a “bootleged” or pirated – which is probably the case here but this is still a gray area of the law.
The lesson to remember is linking in 99% of cases is fine – probably not a good idea to link to something like this shaky video of the musical Wicked.
Note: Yes, I had to link you to a cover version of Little Red Corvette because Prince has done such a good job of keeping his content off the Web – way to go Prince now you got everyone listening to one of your most famous songs performed by Sarah Bettens – a Belgian for crying out loud. Also, you will need something called a mechanical license if you intend to cover one of Prince’s songs yourself.