Yesterday the world had to come to terms with the fact that one of the greatest musicians of the modern age was no longer with us. As first reported by TMZ, Prince passed away at Paisley Park, aged just 57.
While undoubtedly a musical genius, Prince’s relationship with the Internet was often a difficult one, with the entertainer even withdrawing all of his music from the major streaming services last year, leaving it only on Tidal.
But in file-sharing circles Prince was probably best known for his efforts to bring Internet piracy to an end. Almost nine years ago as part of an initiative to “reclaim the Internet”, Prince hired controversial anti-piracy outfit Web Sheriff to hit sites including YouTube, eBay, and of course, The Pirate Bay. The letter the site received on his behalf was ‘unique’ to say the least.
“Well, ‘way to go on losing all your fans’,” Pirate Bay’s Peter Sunde told TF at the time. “I truly respect the son of a king’s work as a musician but he seems like he has some kind of problem in getting to deal with his fans.”
In the end that particular threat of legal action came to nothing but Prince’s fight against piracy never ended and sometimes pushed the boundaries of sensible. In 2014 Prince shocked almost everyone by threatening to sue 22 fans who posted links to videos of his concerts on Facebook.
“Prince has suffered and is continuing to suffer damages in an amount according to proof, but no less than $1 million per Defendant,” the lawsuit read.
Just a day later the lawsuit was withdrawn, adding yet another mystery to Prince’s life.
But whatever one might think of the man’s attitude towards the Internet and indeed piracy, one had to admire his commitment. While obviously keen to protect his own interests, Prince seemed to truly care about artists’ welfare. Interestingly, an extraordinary story that surfaced last night underlines just that.
When unauthorized content appears online, most artists and their labels rely on a chain of middle men to do the work for them, including taking content down and/or issuing legal threats. Indeed, Prince has relied on this mechanism himself many times in the past.
However, according to the operator of music hosting site YourListen, Prince wasn’t averse to dealing with things personally. After allowing only Tidal to stream his music, Prince discovered unauthorized music on YourListen – and decided to do something about it.
“I never thought in my life I would get a call on my cell phone from Prince,” Scott Goodman told The Frame.
“We never had the artist decide to physically call us and ask us to take that music down,” he said, noting that function was mostly carried out by automated bots.
Amazingly, Goodman says that Prince stayed on the line for almost 30 minutes to explain why he was determined to protect his music.
“His big picture and his goal and battle he’s been fighting for decades is stopping piracy. He truly believed that piracy could come to an end with people like him, who obviously had power and money. He told me, ‘Scott, we need to fight piracy. We cannot have musicians having their music stolen’,” Goodman says.
Having someone like Prince make a personal call to any kind of file-sharing site is absolutely unprecedented and it certainly appears to have had an impact on Goodman. Of course, one phone call is unlikely to change the world, but the thought that someone as reclusive as Prince believed in a cause enough to make that call himself is quite something.
“Prince fought the music industry, but also the internet (sued me at least once),” Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde said last night.
“He was a creative genius, deserves so much respect. RIP.”