- The Washington Times - Friday, July 27, 2018

A photojournalist cried foul after Twitter removed a video he filmed in downtown Minneapolis shortly following Prince’s death in April 2016, arguing his footage of thousands of people singing “Purple Rain” should be protected from a copyright claim brought on behalf of the late artist’s record label.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune photojournalist Aaron Lavinsky said that Twitter pulled a video he posted the evening that Prince’s death was announced after receiving a takedown request from Universal Music Publishing Group, or UMPG, a division of Universal Music that owns the rights to “Purple Rain” and the rest of the late artist’s catalog.

“This is very disturbing: Universal Music filed a [DMCA] takedown on a video I shot of thousands of Prince fans singing Purple Rain the night of his death. This was clearly fair use and UMPG and Twitter are in the wrong,” Mr. Lavinsky tweeted Wednesday, adding that Twitter removed the clip pursuant to receiving a request brought under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, or DMCA.

While Mr. Lavinsky’s tweet containing the video was still accessible through Twitter, the actual footage was replaced with a message saying it was unavailable.

Representatives for neither Twitter nor Universal immediately returned messages seeking comment, but by Friday afternoon the video was restored following this article’s initial publication.

Prince faithful can rejoin,” Mr. Lavinsky tweeted Friday, adding that Universal had retracted its claim.

Mr. Lavinsky had tweeted the video on the night of April 21, 2016, hours after news emerged that the acclaimed, Grammy Award-winning musician had been found dead at his Paisley Park estate in Chanhassen, Minnesota.

Thousands of people descended on nearby Minneapolis after news of his death was confirmed that evening, and Mr. Lavinsky’s tweet captured a crowd singing “Purple Rain” outside of First Avenue, a downtown venue featured in the filming of the 1984 movie of the same name.

“This is what it sounds like when thousands of Prince faithful sing Purple Rain,” he captioned the video.

The video was retweeted over 13,000 times, and the tweet was embedded in articles published by multiple, international news outlets following the artist’s death, including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Billboard, Yahoo News, Der Spiegel and The Mirror, among others.

The DMCA was implemented amid the online file-sharing boom that ravaged the music industry in the late 1990s, and the legislation prohibits unlawful reproduction, distribution or performance of copyrighted works. It does provide some exemptions, however, including material used for factual work, such as news items.

The DMCA is “an important tool for artists who need to protect their intellectual property online,” Mr. Lavinsky tweeted Wednesday, “but a major corporation abusing the system to remove a news video shot by a newspaper photographer is [inappropriate].”

Prince’s catalog was relentlessly protected against alleged copyright infringement even prior to the artist’s passing, and a YouTube video of a child dancing to his song “Let’s Go Crazy” became the subject of a lengthy federal court cases ultimately decided by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2015, albeit eight years after being uploaded.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide