Prince 'Excited' by Napster

ByABC News

N E W   Y O R K, Aug. 12, 2000 -- Prince is back, free, and using the Internet to weigh in on Napster, technology, music and the record industry.

In a manifesto, of sorts, posted on his Web site, titled “4 The Love of Music,” Prince calls online services like Napster “exciting,” and once again shows his general distaste for the record industry.

In 1996, Prince had broken free of his contractual relationship with Time Warner Records, literally painting himself a “slave” — by often appearing in public with the word on his face. He swapped the moniker Prince for an unpronounceable symbol, so his record company could not profit from anything with his name on it, and became known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince.

‘Consumers’ vs. ‘Lovers’

And now he’s back as Prince, reigning over his own niche in cyberspace,, and embracing the “new systems” and “new devices” that allow music lovers to pursue the artistic objects of their affection.

Drawing an immediate distinction between music “consumers” who eat everything the record labels put on their plate and “lovers,” who go beyond what’s on the radio and try to enhance their understanding and appreciation of the art, Prince goes on to write that although the future is unknown, “The Evolution Will B Digitized.” With the rapid changes afoot in technology, writes Prince, “There does not seem 2 b anything the old record companies can do about preventing this evolution from happening.”

Prince cites Napster as an illustration of “the growingfrustration over how much the record companies control what musicpeople get to hear.” Napster is a controversial, free, song-swapping service that allows Internet users to download digital music files from other people’s computers.

“From the point of view of the music lover, what’s going oncan only be viewed as an exciting new development in the historyof music,” said Prince, whose hits include “1999,” “When DovesCry,” and “Cream.”

In Praise of Prince

A Time Warner spokesman responded, “Dick [Parsons] has a lotof respect for Prince as an artist and as a musician. But thatdoesn’t change the company’s position on Napster.”

Time Warner’s Warner Music Group is among five major recordlabels suing the San Mateo, Calif., song-swapping company for violations ofcopyright law, calling the service a haven for piracy. The other labels are Sony Music Entertainment, Seagram Co.’s Universal Music Group, BMG, the music unit of Bertelsmann AG andEMI Group Plc.

Napster claims its service is not copyright infringement asthe record labels claim, arguing instead that the service is“fair use” of intellectual property — the argument that allows people to make copies of music, documents, and artwork forpersonal noncommercial use.

Critical of Time Warner

In his 1,900 word essay, Prince posits that rather than being a society immersed in a “cultural dark ages,” as a Time Warner executive quoted but unnamed on his page suggests, society can continue to grow through intellectual and digital freedom, so the masses can educate themselves without the interference of big businesses.

“The notion of copyright was not invented by artists to protect themselves from honest individuals sharing their enthusiasm about their work,” he writes. “It was invented by artists to protect themselves from dishonest and hypocritical individuals and companies exploiting their work without their consent.”

The most poignant attack made in his essay is against Richard Parsons, the president of Time Warner Inc., the parent company of his formerlabel, Warner Brothers.

Excerpted from a recent Los Angeles Times article, Parsons is quoted as saying, “An increasing number of young people don’tbuy albums, so we are not only losing that immediate revenue.They are growing up with a notion that music is free and ought tobe free.”

Prince points out that the relationship between music andthe public articulated by Parsons is from a purely commercial point of view. “Nowhere is it mentioned that the fundamental reason why those ‘young people’ are exchanging music online is that they are excited about the music, that they are actually developing a sense of appreciation of what good music is.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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