The Bootleg Issue

(Any links on this page may become dead over time. I check them on an irregular basis - which is never)

Prince is a much bootlegged artist. From his 2002 One Nite Alone tour a lot of bootlegs surfaced. Not only from the regular shows and aftershows, but also from the soundchecks, made available to NPG Music Club members. The Boots appeared mere weeks after the shows. Not only from the tour shows, but also from the Celebration, a one week music festival held in his own Paisley Park, a 12CD set appeared. Round about this time (august 2002), he started to go "after the bootleggers" again.

In the 1990's many internet site owners received a 'Cease and Desist' letter from his lawyers. He stated the they infringed his copyright by having MP3's, his image or the symbol (by which name his was known - and ridiculed - for about 7 years) on the site without his permission. Many sites closed, some fought backk, and won (Uptown). Many fans were very disappointed by these actions and turned their backs on him. After (and during) the C&D period business went on as usual, bootlegs were still made, sold and traded. Until he went after the bootleggers again. This time not directly, but he went to their ISP's claiming their user(s) were doing illegal things with his property. The ISP's sent emails to the users, threatening to close the site if it was not done by the user self.

On august 16, 2002 the following message appeared on Prince's site WWW.NPGMUSICCLUB.COM:

"Dig if u will the picture...
a box set of CDs from the NPG arrive at ur doorstep one Friday morning in the near future, just in time 4 the party u were planning 4 six of ur friends. u anxiously open, hoping it is- YES! The new 7 CD box set of XENOPHOBIA! But wait... u already bought this set from a bootlegger.
How do u feel?"

How do I feel? I feel fine. If he wants to release 7 live CD's I'm all for it. Do I feel sorry for having bought this set as a bootleg as well? No I don't. Why not? Because Prince's set is a) edited and b) incomplete, if it ever gets released, which to this date it hasn't even though a release party has been given, and now the 7CD box is shrunk into a 3CD box. And I like to have all his live performances, and as complete as possible.

First I'd like to make a difference between bootlegs and pirates. Pirates are copies of original released material. Bootlegs are live recordings or not-released material. Artists often claim that bootlegs cost them money. How is that? Pirates cost them money, because the artist isn't making the money from that release. Bootlegs contain material that is not (yet) released, and therefore can never cost the artist money. Why not?

Because the casual fan won't buy bootlegs. The quality is too poor for that, plus that they don't care. It's not like bootlegs are widely available in music stores. So the only persons buying bootlegs are the hardcore fans. Those that want everything. And because they are hardcore fans and want everything they will buy the officially released stuff by definition. Some go as far as even buying every single/LP/CD release from every country, because there is a different sleeve or just because it's from another country and they want to have everything. Is the artist going to loose money from this type of person, because this person buys bootlegs as well. HELL NO! This is the type of person that will make him money, because that person will buy all his releases, no matter what, it's his most dedicated fan. Not the single buyer or the one that buys the greatest hits releases and the odd album.

Who else buys bootlegs. People who like the artist, but may not have all the CD's but went to a show and would like to have a recording of that show, to listen back to it and remember that night. Is this person going to loose the artist money. No, because that person wouldn't have bought many more CD's of that artist anyway. And most live releases by artists are usually compilations of various shows, and it's not the show you went to. Plus that person has to know how and where to get bootlegs, something that isn't easy if you don't know where to look.

On september 27, the following article was posted on the Pioneer Press site:

COURTS: Prince alleging copyright violation
BY HANNAH ALLAM
Pioneer Press

Prince is generally described as a free-spirited, free-thinking, free-loving kind of guy. But one thing about the Minnesota superstar isn't free: his music.

Prince, through his Chanhassen-based Paisley Park Enterprises, is suing the operator of an Internet site that allegedly offered pirated recordings of live performances from "Xenophobia," the artist's June concert series, according to a federal copyright-infringement lawsuit filed Wednesday in Minneapolis. Prince, an artists' rights advocate long before Napster became a household name, filed at least three similar lawsuits in 1999.

Prince, 44, names Mathew Lankford of Seattle as the operator of Freemy heart.com a now-disabled Web site where people who didn't shell out $100 a day for the Paisley Park events could still hear "Housequake" or "1+1+1 Is 3." Lankford could not be reached for comment.

The claim alleges Lankford broke federal copyright laws by allowing Web users to download Prince songs that included "specific information describing which day the unauthorized recording of the Xenophobia concert took place." Jerry Blackwell, the Minneapolis attorney representing Paisley Park, did not return calls seeking comment.

(Read the full article here)

On October 1, 2002 the following article regarding the same issue appeared on MTV.com.

Prince Fan's Attempt To 'Free The Music' Could Cost Him $150K Per MP3
10.01.2002 8:21 PM EDT

Prince filed a federal copyright infringement lawsuit against a Seattle Webmaster on Thursday, claiming that his site had posted downloads to unauthorized songs. The Webmaster denies this claim.

"All I did was link directly to songs [on another, unrelated Web site]," Matthew Lankford said. "And I've been unemployed for the last year. I live in a studio apartment in downtown Seattle. They're basically suing me for my Top Ramen money."

Thirty-three-year-old Lankford, who runs the Me'shell Ndegeocello fan site FreeMyHeart.com, said that he linked to upwards of 50 recordings from another Web site which were taken from Prince's Xenophobia live concert performances this past June. Since Prince is seeking damages of $150,000 per song, that could total up to $7.5 million.

However, Prince's lawyer said that it wasn't just links that irked the Purple One. "Lankford had both sound files and links to other sites," Jerry Blackwell said. "And some of those links were to other sites that he directed and controlled."

Lankford, who disputes having any control over the other Web sites, said that he first got word that Prince's camp was upset with his activities when he received a notice in mid-August via Prince's NPG Music Club, which notified him that he had violated the singer's copyright and demanded the removal of unauthorized music.

Lankford then sent a letter in response which convinced Prince's lawyers that it would take a court action to stop him, since he wrote, "Until my Internet Service Provider says 'No,' or until I receive a judge's decision that says 'No,' I will continue doing what Prince promised in 1995 by freeing the music in a non-profit format."

The Webmaster argued that he wasn't bootlegging, but file-sharing, noting that the entire week of Xenophobia concerts were already being sold as bootlegs elsewhere on the Internet. Lankford then wrote, "My putting up a track or two a day of unreleased material for the 500 people that visit FreeMyHeart.com per day isn't going to harm Prince financially in any way whatsoever. In fact, I put up a link for folks to support Prince by purchasing his most recent album."

Prince's camp next notified Lankford's ISP provider Affinity, who took down his Web site for a month under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Lankford removed the links and had his access restored in mid-September, only to find that the matter, as far as Prince was concerned, was still unresolved.

"Yes, the files are gone," Prince lawyer Blackwell said. "But since he said he would link to every bootleg site he could find, it could happen again. He intends to keep on doing this. We could shut down his site today, and another would pop up tomorrow."

Consequently, Prince's Paisley Park Enterprises filed the suit in U.S. District Court of Minnesota, alleging that there was an "ongoing infringement." Even though any files or links are nowhere to be found on Lankford's site at present, Prince's lawsuit alleges that he "continues to willfully infringe Plantiff's copyright and has indicated that he will continue to infringe Plantiff's copyrights once his Web site is back online."

Lankford, who has discussed the matter with Prince's lawyers, says that he's confused why they're going after him and not the original Web site which posted the music files to begin with. His defense ? that he didn't post the files, and that he took the links down ? seems to have made no impact, he said. Prince's lawsuit claims that by directing his users to the other Web site, he gave access to copyrighted music and allowed others to make copies and transmissions, thereby violating the Copyright Act.

"There are hundreds of bootleggers out there," Blackwell said. "We can't find them all. But we do try to get the ones we do find to act responsibly. [Lankford] is spending his entire day providing unauthorized music to people. He could certainly get authorized music and do the same thing. There's a fan club for that.

"Why he doesn't get a regular job, I do not know," he continued. "He thinks he's a modern day Robin Hood. But I don't think anybody who has a legitimate job and works for a paycheck would willingly be robbed of that check, and that's what's happening to artists. And we'll take whatever measures we have to get them to stop."

On September 28, 2002 Prince emailed the members of his Music Club the following:

"BOOTLEGGERS R NOT FANS. THEY SELL UNAUTHORIZED STOLEN PROPERTY 2 FANS.
There r numerous posts throut Paisley Park that in4m guests of their policies regarding illegally recording the events that r staged there. This
policy applies as well 2 PRINCE and the NPG concerts thruout the world. MESSAGE 2 BOOTLEGGERS: LEAVE UR RECORDING EQUIPMENT AT HOME. ILLEGAL REPRODUCTION OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY IS PROHIBITED. PEACE"

He still doesn't get it. Pearl Jam released 23 live CD's, one of each concert of the 1999 European tour. After that they released 23, and later another 25 CD's of the American tour of 2000. They know the fans want this. They give it. Also The Who release every show of their 2002 tour, about 3 weeks after the show. These bands know what the fans want. But Prince? Instead of beating the bootleggers at their own game, he tries to fight them. Invain. And it's not that he can't since he recorded his each and every performance from the day he started.

Reading his message above makes me wonder. Granted bootlegs are unauthorized. If he really doesn't want people recording, why can't he, even at his own Paisley Park, hire people who make sure nobody walks in with a tape recorder? And why can't he understand that the fanbase he still has, mainly stuck around because of the bootlegs. They show what he is capable of, what a great musician and showman he is. That are the kind of recordings that if you play them for a non-Prince fan, makes them go "who is that, he is good".

Without bootlegs, only about 700-800 people would've heard the famous Paard Van Troje aftershow, and that would've been a fucking waste. I'm sure that if he released all his shows, for a price of let's say $5 for a single disc to $8 for a double disc, no fancy artwork, just a simple cardboard sleeve, with information of the date, venue, setlist and who performed that night (kinda like the Days Of Wild single) I'm sure a lot of people would buy a lot of these discs.

And after this is all over? Business goes on as usual, bootlegs are still being made, sold and traded. Starting with the European leg of the One Nite Alone Tour.

January 2004.
In January 2004 the message came the Prince's lawyers send a cease and desist letter to the owners of WWW.GUIDE2PRINCE.ORG. This site had 1063 entries of bootlegs. They did not sell them, they only listed them. And yet they had to stop. The URL was auctioned off at eBay and was sold for $202.50.On january 30th, 2004 the site was shut down. Not info could be obtained anymore (or could it?). Click here for the final message or here for the G2P.Org site history.

After the G2P.Org was shut down another site that displayed Prince bootleg information came under attack. WWW.PAISLEYPARKVAULT.COM received a Cease And Desist letter. Unlike G2P they decided to keep the site going, with the restriction of a password protection. It's totally unbelievable that Prince can force fans(!!!) that put general available information on a publicly accessable site, to either stop what they like doing, or force them to protect their site in any way possible.
It's like car dealers trying to stop sites that show which used cars are available for buying. They're not selling them, they're merely showing what's available.

If you feel like reacting on this, you can email me here.

Links to Prince.Org threads about the Prince Bootleg Issue:
http://www.prince.org/msg/thread.html?fid=7&tid=24114
http://www.prince.org/msg/thread.html?fid=7&tid=23858
http://www.prince.org/msg/thread.html?fid=13&tid=23525