Prince Claims When Someone Covers Your Song, The Original No Longer Exists

from the prince-world dept

Ah, Prince. The artist, who is notoriously controlling concerning his own music, has apparently decided that the latest evil in the world is cover songs and the compulsory licenses that make them possible. As you may or may not know, it's legal to do cover songs, because of compulsory licensing laws that say as long as you pay a set fee, you can cover any song (why such laws don't apply to samples is weird, and leads to the bizarre situation in which it's legal to cover an entire song, but do just a second of the song and you may be in legal trouble). Either way, Prince is not a fan. In an appearance on the George Lopez show (embedded below), Prince comes out against the entire idea of cover songs because, apparently, it destroys the original:
Prince: I don't mind fans singing the songs... My problem is when the industry "covers" the music. See covering the music means that your version doesn't exist anymore. A lot of times, people think that I'm doing Sinead O'Connor's song and Chaka Khan's song when in fact I wrote those songs. And it's okay when my friends ask to do them, but there's this thing called the compulsory license law, which allows artists, through the record companies, to take your music, at will, without your permission. And that doesn't exist in any other artform, be it books, movies -- there's only one version of "Law and Order' (crowd laughs). There are several versions of "Kiss" and "Purple Rain."

George Lopez: There should be only one version of music.

Prince (sarcastically): You would think... (crowd laughs)
Hmm. Well. So, apparently Prince's version of "Purple Rain" no longer exists. I had no idea. As for Prince's final point, why would you think that? Why is there a problem of anyone doing a cover? Rather than the original no longer existing, it actually exists more, in that more people are aware of and interested in the original.

Of course, all this made me curious. Surely, Prince has covered others songs before. And, in fact, he has. Many, many, many times. Some folks on the Prince fan boards have made a nice list of all the many songs that Prince has apparently "destroyed" of other artists by covering them either for albums or live shows. Of course, perhaps he did this out of spite for those other artists. In fact, Prince has been accused of covering the Foo Fighters during his Superbowl performance to "get revenge" on the Foo Fighters for covering one of his songs. Some revenge. "Destroying" their original song like that in front of the largest TV audience around. Must suck.


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    crade (profile), Apr 21st, 2011 @ 9:01am

    On planet Prince, covering music is wrong. Also, his music is good there.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 9:52am

    Compulsory Licensing

    Does compulsory licensing exist for recorded covers? I was under the impression that you could cover any song you wanted when doing a performance, but not if you're recording an album. That's why I thought samples were not covered by that license. I could be wrong though.

     

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    weneedhelp (profile), Apr 21st, 2011 @ 9:53am

    Good riddance

    Example: Land of confusion - MUCH MUCH better by disturbed.

    Pince and the nebbadution. I spent a rushed hour and a half building platforms off the Tower stage for this fruit to be "closer to his people" and he never used them. Egotistical asshole. I guess he didnt really want to get closer to "his people."

     

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      Squirrel Brains (profile), Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:00am

      Re: Good riddance

      Hey, us fruits take offense with being associated with Prince.

       

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        Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:24am

        Re: Re: Good riddance

        Okay, that's it. After yesterday's bullshit, I suggest we collectively call for a moratorium on "being offended" until we can all agree to be sane and non-idiotic....so basically forever....

         

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      MrWilson, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:26am

      Re: Good riddance

      I was a fan of the Genesis version of Land of Confusion as a kid and didn't know there was a good cover like that. Thanks for the heads-up.

       

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      Gwiz (profile), Apr 21st, 2011 @ 11:18am

      Re: Good riddance

      Example: Land of confusion - MUCH MUCH better by disturbed.

      Old school rocker myself and I disagree. I think the Genesis version is by far the better version. Just like I think original Don Henley version of "The Boys of Summer" is miles better than The Ataris' version. (hehe - maybe I'll call my next garage band "The Pongs" or "The ColecoVisions")

      But hey, that's just my own personal opinion and I don't feel that the covers have taken anything away from the originals.

       

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        techflaws.org (profile), Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 2:30pm

        Re: Re: Good riddance

        Agreed Genesis' version rules, especially the 12". After "Down with the Sickness" the cover is just lame, same goes for Korn's "Word Up" that doesn't hold a candle to Gun's version.

         

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      RS, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 11:36am

      Re: Good riddance

      Woa! That's rough. will you be an egotistical asshole if you choose to exercise your choice not to spend a mlnute replying to this? (I worked on it at least 3 )

       

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      PrinceIsKing, Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 11:28pm

      Re: Good riddance

      And did you get paid? wahhhhh

       

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      lpoda1, Dec 14th, 2013 @ 10:16am

      Re: Good riddance

      Or could be that he didn't trust the work!

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 9:55am

    Most of the covers I've heard suck.

    There are very few that seem able to have the singer with the vocal range, the musicians with the instrumental skill and ability, and they always leave me feeling like they didn't have enough songwriting skills to pull off their own material.

    Another stereotype that always hits me is that they are looking to try and get a bit of fame off some well known tune because they don't possess it themselves and figure that getting some one to listen to them can only be done at that point in their career by doing something everyone knows. It's like they are looking for a short cut to fame without having to pay the dues to learn the skills.

    Prince should shut his mouth as he apparently doesn't realize that those covers are so poorly done it drives the listener to the original.

     

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      crade (profile), Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:05am

      Re:

      "Most of the covers I've heard suck"
      You obviously need to get you you some Joe Cocker.

      It's only the good covers that Prince is complaining about. The kind that become the definitive version. Like when Whitney covered "I will always love you" and no one though of poor, poor Dolly Parton who became obscure and destitute afterwords.

       

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        MrWilson, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:29am

        Re: Re:

        A "good" cover a bad song is still a bad song.

        Dolly gets a pardon since her version was falling into obscurity when the Bodyguard came out.

        Whitney gets a pardon only now because she's fallen into obscurity, except for when people want to make drug jokes.

         

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          JEDIDIAH, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:36am

          Meh I say!

          Oh Please. Most "high culture" is nothing but "cover songs".

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:47am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Dolly gets a pardon..."
          I get it... Dolly Pardon. Hee hee.

           

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          Rich, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 11:19am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Really? Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded by the Light": rambling crap. Manfred Mann's Earth Band's version: Incredible. The Supremes' "You keep Me Hangin' On" is great (as is Kim Wilde's). The Vanilla Fudge's version: yuck.

           

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            harbingerofdoom (profile), Apr 21st, 2011 @ 12:03pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            nearly anything by me first and the gimmie gimmies (which often times breaks the rule that a cover of a song that sucks to begin with will also suck).

            hell, they've made an entire carrier doing cover songs. and quite well i might add.

             

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        Michael, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:29am

        Re: Re:

        She will always have the twins.

         

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      aldestrawk (profile), Apr 21st, 2011 @ 2:05pm

      Re:

      Expand your horizons.

      There are a lot of talented musicians who do covers, in concert, if not recorded. Varied examples:

      The Rolling Stones -You Can't catch me (Chuck Berry)
      The Rolling Stones -Suzie Q (Dale Hawkins, Stan Lewis, Eleanor Broadwater)
      Credence Clearwater Revival -Suzie Q (Dale Hawkins, Stan Lewis, Eleanor Broadwater)
      The Rolling Stones -Love in Vain (Robert Johnson)
      The Rolling Stones -Shake Your hips (Slim Harpo)
      The Rolling Stones -You Gotta Move (Fred McDowell/Gary Davis)
      Devo -I can't get no Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones)
      Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young -Woodstock (Joni Mitchell)
      Smashing Pumpkins -Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
      Tori Amos -Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
      Tori Amos -Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)
      Patti Smith -Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)
      Nirvana -The Man Who Sold The World (David Bowie)
      The Byrds -Mr. Tambourine Man (Bob Dylan)
      Jimi Hendrix -All Along The Watchtower (Bob Dylan)
      Jimi Hendrix -Hey Joe (Billy Roberts)
      Patti Smith -Hey Joe (Billy Roberts)
      Patti Smith -So You Want to Be (A Rock 'n' Roll Star) (The Byrds)


      Aretha Franklin -Respect (Otis Redding)
      Otis Redding -Stand by Me (Ben E King)

      The Beatles -Roll Over Beethoven (Chuck Berry)
      Joe Cocker -With a Little Help from My Friends (Beatles)
      Richie Havens -With a Little Help from My Friends (Beatles)
      Richie Havens -Here COmes the Sun (Beatles)
      William Shatner -Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (Beatles)
      801 (Phil Manzanera Brian Eno etc.) -Tomorrow Never Knows
      The Grateful Dead -Tomorrow Never Knows (The Beatles)
      The Grateful Dead -Not Fade Away (Buddy Holly)
      Led Zeppelin -You Shook Me (Willie Dixon, J. B. Lenoir)
      Led Zeppelin -Babe I'm Gonna to Leave You (Anne Bredon)
      The Who -Eyesight to the Blind (Sonny Boy Williamson II)
      The Who -Summertime Blues (Jerry Capehart, Eddie Cochran)
      Santana -Black Magic Woman (Fleetwood Mac)
      Santana -Evil Ways (Clarence Henry)
      Elvis Presley -Blue Suede Shoes (Carl Perkins)
      Cream -Born Under a Bad Sign (Booker T. Jones, William Bell)
      Cream -Crossroads (Robert Johnson)
      Ten Years After -Crossroads (Robert Johnson)
      Jimi Hendrix -Crossroads (Robert Johnson)
      Steve Miller Band -Crossroads (Robert Johnson)
      Eric Clapton -Cocaine (J. J. Cale)
      The Animals -Don't let Me be Misunderstood (Bennie Benjamin, Sol Marcus, Gloria Caldwell)
      Joe Cocker -Don't let Me be Misunderstood (Bennie Benjamin, Sol Marcus, Gloria Caldwell)
      Joe Cocker -Feelin' Alright (Dave Mason)
      Joe Cocker -Just Like a Woman (Bob Dylan)
      Joe Cocker -Something (George Harrison)
      Joe Cocker -Delta Lady (Leon Russell)
      Leon Russel -Beware of Darkness (George Harrison)
      Johnny Cash -Ghost Riders in the Sky (Stan Jones)
      Mary McCaslin -Ghost Riders in the Sky (Stan Jones)
      The Tubes -Ghost Riders in the Sky (Stan Jones)
      The Clash -I Fought the Law (Sonny Curtis)
      The Doors -Back Door Man (Willie Dixon)
      The Kingsmen -Louie Louie (Chuck Berry)
      Iggy Pop -Louie Louie (Chuck Berry)
      George Thorogood -Move It On Over (Hank Williams Sr.)
      Janis Joplin -Me And Bobby McGee (Kris Kristofferson, Fred Foster)
      Janis Joplin -Ball and Chain (Big Mama Thornton)
      Talking Heads -Take Me to the River (Al Green, Teenie Hodges)
      The Byrds -Turn, Turn, Turn (Pete Seeger)

      Well, there are many others and such info can be looked up.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 9:28pm

        Re: Re:

        Hmmm so it is possible for covers to destroy the memory of the original. What we need is every Prince song to by covered by skillful artists and eradicate the Purple Glyph from human memory.

         

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        PrinceIsKing, Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 11:33pm

        Re: Re:

        about that last line..I think you have pretty much listed everything

         

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      The Groove Tiger (profile), Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:12pm

      Re:

      Really.

      Try listening to the original version of Red Red Wine without falling asleep.

      The UB40 version is IMO much better. Now whether you may like their style or not is a different issue.

       

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    Anonymous Poster, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:04am

    This is a dangerously insane individual.

     

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    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:11am

    Prince is an Idiot, but...

    I understand what he is trying to formulate here.

    When I was a teen and just getting into the music scene, I really liked Aerosmith's "Come Together" and Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Tax Man" It wasn't until years later that I learned those songs and many other songs I liked were really covers of Beetles songs.

    Now, what I don't agree with The Artist Formally Known as the Artist Formally Known as Prince is that my love of these songs from SRV and Aerosmith brought my attention to the Beetles and I gained a new appreciation of their music.

     

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      Joe Publius (profile), Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:30am

      Re: Prince is an Idiot, but...

      Speaking of the Beatles, someone should tell Paul McCartney that his version of "Yesterday" no longer exists several thousand times over.

       

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      MrWilson, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:32am

      Re: Prince is an Idiot, but...

      What you bring up, however, is that the audience, not the artist, is who determines the value of a work.

      You happen to prefer the Beatles' version of Come Together, but I still prefer Aerosmith's. I like the Beatles' Instant Karma, but some bands have done it better. It's up to the individual listener whether the original version "ceases to exist."

      I like NIN's Hurt, but Johnny Cash did an awesome cover.

       

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        johnny canada, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 11:02am

        Re: Re: Prince is an Idiot, but...

        @ MrWilson

        "I like NIN's Hurt, but Johnny Cash did an awesome cover."

        I just treat them as two different song.

        Same words same tune, but two different meanings.

         

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        zegota (profile), Apr 21st, 2011 @ 11:32am

        Re: Re: Prince is an Idiot, but...

        If what you say about Instant Karma is true, maybe Prince is right about original songs being destroyed ... John Lennon released Instant Karma as part of his solo career, and now I can't find info about it originally being a Beatles song *anywhere*

        ;-)

         

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    Fushta, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:14am

    Purple Rain, Purple Rain...

    I checked my CD of Purple Rain last night, and the digital tracks are still there *whew*

    Plus, everyone knows that Lisa & Wendy wrote the song Purple Rain. It's in the movie, so there.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:37am

      Re: Purple Rain, Purple Rain...

      Prince: But why is my music dying, then?

      Chaka Khan: Because people have begun to lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So the Nothing grows stronger.

      Prince: What is the Nothing?

      Chaka Khan: It's the emptiness that's left. It's like a despair, destroying this world. And I have been trying to help it.

      Prince: But why?

      Chaka Khan: Because people who have no hopes are easy to control; and whoever has the control... has the power!

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:23am

    It seems clear in context that he's not saying the original actually, physically stops existing in copies or cannot be heard anymore.

    Rather, he seems to be saying that people often don't understand which version is the original and which is the cover. This is, of course, true.

    But that by itself doesn't seem to be a good argument for doing away with compulsory licenses.

     

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    Lyle, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:24am

    It sounds like the real problem he has with covers is the lack of attribution for the artist who wrote the original song. I actually agree with him there. How many times has somebody heard a cover and not realize that band didn't write it? I personally came to that realization with lots of songs covered in the 90's, because I was generally nieve of anything that came before that era.

    The concept of attribution is alive and well on the internet already. If you quote an article, it's common courtesy to link to the original. Same with using photography and art. Most artists don't have a problem with the exposure so long as they are credited. Why can't musical artists get the same courtesy?

     

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      Nastybutler77 (profile), Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:38am

      Re:

      Most artists don't have a problem with the exposure so long as they are credited. Why can't musical artists get the same courtesy?

      They do. In the liner notes of the album. You just don't hear that on the radio, or mp3 gotten off of Limewire.

       

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    johnny canada, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:28am

    Only when Johnny Cash covers a song "The Original No Longer Exists"

     

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    S. Freud, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:32am

    Of course...

    Of course... in the fantasy world that Prince lives... the internet is dead... fairies roam the air... and unicorns run through Prince's yard.... and Congress passes a balanced budget...

     

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    Dave from Canada, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:46am

    Attribution

    @Lyle #15 "The concept of attribution is alive and well on the internet already. If you quote an article, it's common courtesy to link to the original. Same with using photography and art. Most artists don't have a problem with the exposure so long as they are credited. Why can't musical artists get the same courtesy?"

    When there were such things as CDs and Albums, song writers always got the courtesy. It always said, "Written by ..." on the album notes. With MP3s and iTunes it's a little harder (less room).

     

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    Dave from Canada, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:48am

    Covers are usually tributes

    Having been in a handful of bands (none that were known outside of a very (VERY) small following), most covers by bands are made because the band members loved the song.

    As far as American Idol singers go... that may be different.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 10:55am

    The point is: The music industry can copy whatever they want and rebrand it.

     

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      boogiegyrrl, Nov 26th, 2011 @ 3:28am

      Re:

      Here's the deal the artists don't copyright their material, some were too naive to know what that meant when they started. The music industry copyrights it and owns the copyright. This gives the music industry the license to control how the music is reproduced etc. Any artist that signs up with a record deal is just a performer. The writers and record company make the real money and the record company copyrights the product thereby getting paid for it. If the artists would write their own words and get it copy written, they would have more control over their work, but I doubt the music industry would let them do that. There's probably a clause or stipulation in their contract about that.

       

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    Raybone (profile), Apr 21st, 2011 @ 11:22am

    Chaka Mad

    Chaka real mad

     

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    chris (profile), Apr 21st, 2011 @ 12:02pm

    thank jesus!

    thank you prince for discovering this amazing phenomenon.

    hopefully someone will cover rebecca black's "friday" and the collective works of insane clown posse and liberate the planet once and for all.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 12:43pm

    Prince is still alive?

     

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    Phillip Vector (profile), Apr 21st, 2011 @ 1:06pm

    Kevin Smiths Experiences with Prince

    Just putting it out there for anyone who wants a "backstage look" at Prince. :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gy_cLJ19HMg

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 1:07pm

    ...also, when you take someone's picture you steal their soul!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 2:13pm

    Prince's 80s stuff was good, but he hasn't been relevant in, like, 25 years.

     

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    aldestrawk (profile), Apr 21st, 2011 @ 2:18pm

    So, it is curious that Prince, himself, did a cover that was recorded on an album of covers as a tribute to Joni Mitchell
    A Tribute to Joni Mitchell (2007)
    Prince covers "A Case of You".

     

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    montgoss (profile), Apr 21st, 2011 @ 3:22pm

    Darling Nikki

    From the article:
    "We wanted to put it out here in the States, but Prince wouldn't let us," Hawkins said. "I heard that he didn't like our version. Or maybe he just didn't like us doing it."

    So that's why I couldn't buy that song! I seriously searched for like 10 minutes on Amazon. Of course, I could download it for free pretty easily elsewhere. So, Prince cost the Foo Fighter's at least one sale. Which, sounds like he'd be pretty happy about that...

     

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    Michael Scott, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 4:13pm

    Prince and Cover Songs

    So does the fact that you requoted his quote mean that his original quote no longer exists?

     

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    some random, Apr 21st, 2011 @ 4:41pm

    This actually makes perfect sense in the mind of the artist formally known as prince.

     

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    no fan of the whiners, Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 1:04am

    So I guess in Prince's world a true artist is one who goes from the cradle right into writing and performing there own material.
    You know the easiest way to solve this problem is to stop people from hearing the songs in the first place.
    Than we can stop listening to this tired crap from people who think they are different than everyone else walking the planet.

     

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    Thomas Loyd (profile), Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 1:39am

    Speaking of Watchtowers...

    Too bad he hasn't done a version of "All Along the Watchtower" by Hendrix, no wait, Dylan, no wait....Jehovah's Witnesses! I thought religions had copyright on their material anyway! Maybe his "eternal" soul is part of the 144,000 that are saved, or atleast with his songs of passe nature. I'm just waiting for the JWs to try and DMCA him (or anyone else) for that.....especially since he is (like Scientology) one of their more public faces. The Artist Formerly Unencumbered w/ Idiocy.

     

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    Thomas Loyd (profile), Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 1:44am

    Speaking of Watchtowers...

    Too bad he hasn't done a version of "All Along the Watchtower" by Hendrix, no wait, Dylan, no wait....Jehovah's Witnesses! I thought religions had copyright on their material anyway! Maybe his "eternal" soul is part of the 144,000 that are saved, or atleast with his songs of passe nature. I'm just waiting for the JWs to try and DMCA him (or anyone else) for that.....especially since he is (like Scientology) one of their more public faces. The Artist Formerly Unencumbered w/ Idiocy.

     

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    charliebrown (profile), Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 7:25am

    "Nothing Compares 2U" as recorded by Sinead O'Conner was the number 1 selling song of the year in Australia in 1990. Prince's original version? He had never released it!

    "Kiss" as recorded by Art Of Noise with vocals by Tom Jones? A prime example because, in my opinion, that version rocked and Prince's original version sucked!

    Prince: Great musician, great singer, great songwriting skills, worst attitude ever. Some of the drivel he says makes the RIAA seem like champions of copy-culture!

     

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    Patrick Jones, Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 8:19am

    Samples and synchronization licenses...

    Samples likely fall under the area of a synchronization license, which is not compulsory. What that means is that even though you can play a recorded version of a song without the artist's permission (like a radio DJ or party DJ would do), you can't take that recording and synchronize it with something else (like putting it in a movie or commercial).

    For example, ever notice how Rush Limbaugh uses The Pretenders' "My City Was Gone" and talks over it live on his show? There's nothing the Pretenders can do about that as long as Rush ONLY uses the song as a music bed while he speaks live. However, notice that Rush never uses the song along with his own pre-recorded intro. If he did that, then he would be synchronizing the music with something else, and he would have to get The Pretenders' permission. The same applies to samples.

     

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    PrinceIsKing, Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 11:36pm

    Best Moments

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 12:48pm

    what it means is that the "original" version no longer gets "paid"

     

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