Why you wanna treat me so bad?
That's the question some die-hard Prince fans are asking after receiving cease-and-desist letters from the Purple One's legal team, threatening to shut down a trio of fansites unless they remove all photos, images, cover art and lyrics related to the 49-year-old artist.
The sites' owners have formed Prince Fans United and have vowed to fight the requests, labeling Prince's efforts "bullying tactics" to "stifle all critical commentary about Prince" and a violation of their free-speech rights.
"Prince claims that fansites are not allowed to present any artwork with Prince's likeness, to the extent that he has demanded removal of fans' own photographs of their Prince-inspired tattoos and their vehicles displaying Prince-inspired license plates," says a statement at princefansunited.com. The site goes on to call the legal notices "an injustice" to the "very fans who have supported Prince's career, many since the very beginning."
The Webmasters claim their use of photographs and album cover art is covered under the fair-use doctrine, and they hope that publicizing Prince's draconian actions will force him to change his stance. Otherwise, they say they are prepared to "defend their position in the proper court of law."
There was no immediate comment from Prince's representatives at his Minneapolis-based Paisley Park studios.
But Web Sheriff, the U.K. firm the "Let's Go Crazy" singer hired to enforce the copyright cleanup, denies allegations that Prince was deliberately attacking his audience.
"At no time is Prince suing his fans, and this is not about freedom of speech," John Giacobbi, Web Sheriff's managing director, told Reuters. "The current issue is one between Prince's record label and three unofficial Websites and relates to the use of Prince trademarks and photographs, many of which are Prince's copyright."
A spokesman for Prince Fans United disputes those assertions, telling E! Online the fansites are all run on a voluntarily basis, without commercial intent.
"Web Sheriff's statement that Prince per se is not suing personally is a technicality at best," the rep said. "Many of the photos are copyright[ed] to the fans who posted them, many were provided to us directly by the photographers with permission, many are copyrighted to record labels. We have asked many times for them to identify which photos they believe infringe their clients' rights but received only blanket replies to remove all photos."
Prince's demands are way beyond the pale, because they "go further and demand removal of his 'likeness,' including demands to disable search code that allows users to search housequake.com for the term prince," the spokesmann continued.
The round of cease-and-desist letters comes after Prince sicced his legal team on YouTube when cell-phone video footage and photographs of his 21-night stand at London's O2 Arena last summer was posted online.
But the Web smackdown isn't sitting too well with fans.
"Such a very sad day," wrote someone called MoonSongs on the prince.org message boards. "I can't even listen to his music right now. He will gain control, as many here have correctly assessed, but the Princedom will be quite a bit smaller with all of us gone."
"This current attack on fans and fansites seems to reverse a very positive move he has made in what always seemed like an effort to more closely embrace those fans. I might suggest if this isn't resolved shortly, that drastic fan measures be taken to fight back," says an anonymous poster at princefansunited.com, who went so far as to suggest a boycott of Prince albums and shows.
Another fan was even more blunt: "Suggestion for another name for those sharing these views: The Music Consumers formerly known as Prince Fans."
His Purpleness did have his defenders, however.
"Has it occurred 2 anyone that he may not see things in the same way as u?" an anonymous poster wrote at princefans.com. "He created music. U listen 2 the music. That's it! Nuthin' more, nuthin less."