Prince shunned digital retailers like Apple’s iTunes for not “paying him in advance” and opted instead to distribute free copies of 20Ten with various European newspapers and magazines. Fans have, in turn, responded by distributing digital copies on their own via BitTorrent tracker sites everywhere.
Last week I mentioned how pop star Prince had declared the “Internet’s completely over” and was shunning it altogether with the release of his latest album 20Ten, opting instead to distribute free copies of the album with various European newspapers and magazines.
“I don’t see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else,” he said. “They won’t pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can’t get it.”
This past Saturday the album was given away for free as promised with copies of The Daily Mirror, and fans unable to score one of the physical CDs have instead had to turn elsewhere. BitTorrent tracker sites have been one of the more popular options for digital copies and eBay and Amazon for physical versions.
BitTorrent tracker sites have done what he refused to do and that is offer fans digital copies. By shunning online retailers like Apple’s iTunes and trying to stick to a physical only format Prince has alienated his fans who live outside the UK. Forgoing official digital distribution only means that others will offer it for him unofficially.
Prince’s decision to shun digital distribution could inadvertently raise some interesting “fair-use” exemption claims if he ever decides to go after those illegally sharing his music online.
For in the case of convicted file-sharer Joel Tenenbaum, the presiding judge, Judge Nancy Gertner in the District of Massachusetts, allowed for a “fair -use” exemption for illegal file-sharing from 1999 until 2003 when the music industry began offering legal alternatives with the birth of Apple’s iTunes.
Gertner noted that individuals “who used new file-sharing networks in the technological interregnum before digital media could be purchased legally, but who later shifted to paid outlets” might be able to use a fair-use defense. Whether or not that could be applied to file-sharing after 2003 remains to be seen, but the inability to legally acquire digital copies of Prince’s music could be argued in that context.
By refusing to distribute his music via paid online music outlets Prince may be hurting himself much more than he realizes. Technology always win in the end, and even though he complains that iTunes won’t “pay him an advance” neither will file-sharers.
P2P will always do what content creators refuse to do, and what happened with 20Ten once again confirms this conclusion.