The legal legacy of The Artist Formerly Known as is impressive; we’ll miss his fabled stories and exploits. Years ago, we posted about the background dispute behind Prince’s fight with his label that resulted in his name change from Prince Rogers Nelson.
But these quirky stories aren’t what I find to be so impressive. Instead it is the lack of information available about him on the Internet, especially for someone that famous who made his living from copyrighted works. Nowadays Google is pretty on point for most topics; but not Prince. My searches for legal disputes involving Prince review the well-known dancing baby “Let’s Go Crazy” lawsuit and the Facebook fan suit. In fact most of the search results are actually around Richard Prince (intriguing, but basically antithetical to Prince).
When I started researching this topic, I expected there to be more? Then again, it turns out that it is very difficult to find Prince’s music on current social media sites. Is that the genius of Prince?
We know he didn’t allow reporters to video or record him. He was also quoted as saying “if you don’t own your Masters, your Masters own you.” It would seem that Prince did a much better job controlling both information about himself and music than I certainly ever imagined. It also means it can be done. Few people had as much content as Prince. It would also appear that few people as much control over their messaging as Prince did. Certainly England’s princes do not; Prince Harry alone may be responsible for pushing Prince’s bad press to the bottom of Google’s searches.
Another interesting side effect of Prince’s nearly ten years as is that ten years of his career is basically invisible to Internet searches (other than as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince). He also gained additional advantages over his symbol as a trademark: not only is an unusual symbol one of the strongest types of trademarks, but also it is very difficult for people to infringe or dilute. There simply is no good way to use in a sentence. He also registered the symbol as a trademark to provide himself more control over it. An added benefit is that the symbol was also protected by copyright as an artistic expression.
I’m not suggesting that you change your name to a symbol or that you adopt Prince’s level of control over his brand. However, there are certainly some lessons we could all learn from his brand and content control.
Prince, we’ll miss your quirky ways and your unique music.