Commentary News — 28 January 2014

UPDATE: TMZ is reporting that Prince has dropped the 22M lawsuit.  More details are forthcoming.  TMZ is alleging the change of course was due in part to negative public sentiment.

Ya think?!


And just like that, Prince turns the debate of separating the artist from the artistry upside down…again. It is the age-old question of whether we as music fans and more broadly the general community should try to delineate between the artistic genius on-stage and the untoward behavior off of it. More commonly, the debate was reserved for those who exhibited both created genius and criminal behavior, but Prince once again is forcing us to consider the conversation in different terms.

Recently, Prince filed suit against 22 internet sources (mostly fan sites) for making available either bootleg copies of live performances through direct download or linking to such sites directly. In a legal sense, Prince and his lawyers were evenhanded in their approach, filing suit seeking damages of 1M each.

See actual lawsuit HERE.

As one might expect, the general fan consensus is one of shock, dismay and utter disbelief. The hardliners and intellectual copyright protection loyalists are not surprisingly, leaning toward Prince. Thus far, there have been only two real arguments made in the media, both of a legal nature. The first, is that Prince has no legitimate claim to allege a total of 22M in damages or lost revenue for music footage unavailable elsewhere for legal purchase. The footage was not generating revenue for either the fan site or the artist. The second (and counter to it) is that Prince owns any and all rights to the footage and retains exclusivity in its use. This would be about protecting the integrity of intellectual property, i.e. the principle…not the principal (sum).

There is a third argument which must be considered here, a moral one. This is less about whether Prince can sue 22 separate entities for 1 million dollars each, and more about whether Prince should. It’s not realistic to assume that if the court sides with him that all 22M will be coming his way. It is more likely that he would have ruined 22 separate lives, assuming none of the entities also have children or families in which to provide.

It’s not realistic or even sensible to suggest that such strong-arm tactics will curb file sharing on any level. In fact, using a sledgehammer to effectively “kill” 22 ants doesn’t eliminate an ant problem, it just puts a bunch of holes in your floor and walls, allowing even greater entry and access to unwanted insects.

You don’t have to say it, I already know. “Prince doesn’t care what we think.” Alas, ’tis true, but Prince supposedly cares about God…



Prince supposedly cares about God…and money. I’ll get to the money in a second, but as for “God”…

Throughout his career he’s publicly/musically sought after God, dedicating much of his catalog to some level of aspirational spirituality. He even has a song entitled, “God.

And NO, I will not link you to the actual music for obvious reasons, but I did link you to the lyrics. That should be worth only a 500K lawsuit Prince, I know what you’re thinking, little purple one.

The question that Prince should have considered was, which is of greater value; “being right” versus “righteous behavior” in its expression.  The guy forever in search of God is required to hold righteousness in higher regard than simply being “right.”  PrinceAss

Then again, this is the guy who has a song named, “Head,” and is known to wear high heels and pants with an a$$ window.  Yes we’re all full of glaring contradictions, why should Prince be any different?  You could say that once again, Prince is again showing his a$$; just in a different way.

The exact value of word-of-mouth can’t be monetarily appraised and verified, but the argument can be made that the accused fan sites have provided millions dollars worth of advertisement, freely promoting Prince, his music and discography, with no financial return. In fact, the 20 minutes I spent last week on my radio program on KFI, the #1 talk station in the nation singing the praises of Prince and his music would have cost any advertiser a very pretty penny.

Will Prince get that again from me? Probably not. Am I alone in such a decision? Probably not. Input “Prince sues fans” into Google and see how many results appear. 22 million dollars (which he probably will not ever see, regardless of court ruling) will never undo such self-inflicted damage.

I inquired of FOX News legal expert Eboni K. Williams on the issue…this is what she forwarded me.

The lawsuit itself can be valid without actual damages. The claim for copyright infringement can be based solely on the violation of one’s (in the case Prince’s) exclusive right to property ownership.

The actual damages issue does come  into play with addressing the likelihood that he’ll recover the $1 million dollars he is suing for. In order for him to get that type of money he would have to show actually Ebonilosses to himself or actual profits from the infringing party. Otherwise, the court could impart other remedies such as an injunction to stop further distribution or the actual destruction of the “illegal” videos.”

– Eboni K. Williams

The word-of-mouth which has propelled the Prince brand and name surely has been worth more than the 22 million dollars he seeks to gain in litigation, saying nothing of the subsequent negative press’ effect on future sales. Prince’s point, though arguably “right” in legal terms is wholly unrighteous in its execution.

Such disdain for the internet is not new for Prince and it has been well-chronicled. But what has been less discussed is the disdain for Prince by formerly associated musicians and performers. The stories are legendary, replete with supposed threats of defamation lawsuits by Prince for the mere mention of his name in interviews. Given Prince’s most recent litigious behavior, those “stories” now seem more factual than fictional.  Prince is also VERY sensitive to anyone speaking ill of him as well as “bootlegging” it seems.

This surely isn’t going help in the warm and fuzzy mention department.  And that’s why this makes this business decision so very bad in nature.

The debate will rage long after this editorial as to whether we can or should separate the musical brilliance from the personal shortcomings of our favorite artist. We should though be able to close the book on whether Prince is a good guy.

You don’t have to say it, I already know. “Prince doesn’t care what we think.” Alas, ’tis true.  But we know for a fact he cares what people say and cares about collecting his royalties.  This behavior probably irrevocably negatively impacted the direction of both.

Such is the cost of sacrificing righteousness for the sake of just being right.  In the music business we called that “stepping over dollars, to pick up pennies.”

Mission accomplished.


About Author


Morris W. O’Kelly (Mo’Kelly) is a columnist, radio and television commentator. Visit for the latest from Mr. Mo’Kelly. He is heard weekends from 6-8pm on KFI AM640 in Los Angeles. The program is available via the iHeartRadio app and for download on iTunes and all podcasting apps.

Contact Mo’Kelly: @mrmokelly

  • Mo, HUGE Prince fan here, and I like you and generally agree with your stance. I much as I loathe Prince’s policy in not sharing his music online with mediums like YouTube, I could not disagree with you more. It’s more than just control, for the better part of a decade he has made it known that he doesn’t want his illegally downloaded or posted on these webpages. It was more than just simple broadcast television footage and album tracks, it was also concert footage, unreleased studio tracks, and bootlegs that, for his right, he did not want out in the world. Do I agree with it, no I really wish he released all of this as there is an audience for all of this content and money to be made, but these are his copyright and as Michael Dean said of the Prince Podcast, we as true fans should respect his wishes and abide how he wants his music distributed. These people being sued are not just misguided fans but repeat offenders that flaunted defying his copyright edict, so no sympathy for them at all.

    If you get a chance listen to last week’s Prince Podcast where they play devil’s advocate for Prince’s decision to sue.

    • Mr. Mo’Kelly

      It doesn’t change my stance Anthony and I too am a huge fan. Let me reiterate, this is not about whether he’s legally “right.” This is about him biting off his nose to spite his face.

      He gains WHAT ultimately here? Not 22M…so what is he getting?

      Is he inspiring future album sales or fan participation? Please, explain to me the upside here.

  • Steven Brown

    He is no dummy.. He was looking to have the content removed, not gain $ wise!

  • Patric Jones

    He’s eroding his fan base as opposed to expanding it. That’s his “reward”.

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