One year ago today, on April 21, 2016, Prince died in his Paisley Park home in Minnesota at the age of 57. The iconic musician has since been caught up in posthumous conflict that is quickly becoming kafkaesque.
The Prince Act is a bill to give Prince in death the protection of the law that abandoned him during his lifetime.
As previously reported on ARW, Prince’s member of the Minnesota House of Representatives introduced the Prince Act to protect the right of all residents of Minnesota, including Prince, to exploitation of their name, likeness and persona after death (a version of the moral rights commitment enshrined in article 6bis of the Berne Convention as well as article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
To the great glee of copyleft types critical of Prince’s defense of artist rights, the Prince Act is stalled in the Minnesota legislature. The bill establishes a right of publicity after death. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune because “powerful interests” wanted to block it. So far, we have not found evidence that Google and video game companies are publicly involved in opposition.
Unions representing pro baseball, football, basketball, hockey and soccer players complained that exemptions included in the initial proposal were actually too broad and that they would have undermined existing controls over use of their images.
With less than a week left in the legislative session, and with criticism swirling from numerous prominent Minnesota institutions, members of the state Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday night downscaled the bill’s ramifications. What’s left is simply the clarification of common law that publicity rights extend past death.
“It’s a stopgap measure that recognizes that claim continues to exist even upon death,” Leviton said. “Hopefully, we’ll work together to come up with a more robust, comprehensive right of publicity statute.”
Hoppe, the bill’s House sponsor, said he was open to scaling back the proposal. Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis and sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said he intends to convene a working group to assemble a broader proposal that the Legislature could revisit in 2017. Right now, 17 U.S. states have similar laws on their books.
Even after senators curtailed the proposal’s reach, objections remained among some powerful interests.
Elizabeth Mottur, a lobbyist for the Motion Picture Association of America, said it could expose filmmakers to lawsuits if they portray historical characters or even use historical footage in movies. She used “Forrest Gump” as an example.
“You can say, yes, that movies are protected by the First Amendment,” Mottur said. “Yes, but now the burden is being shifted to the company to go to court and fight the charge and prove their First Amendment right.”
A bill was introduced in the Minnesota Legislature by State Representative Joe Hoppe that would recognize the right of publicity in a person’s name, voice, signature, photograph or likeness and prohibiting uses not authorized by the artist or their heirs, and, of course, providing civil remedies. (Rep. Hoppe’s district includes Paisley Park.)
Called the “Prince Act”, the legislation was designed to protect the illegal copies of everything Prince that have already clogged the marketplace to put cash in the pockets of macabre profiteers (and no doubt online ad networks, too). It would also bring Minnesota into the group of 17 states that provide a right of publicity.
It’s worth noting that the patchwork of state law right of publicity statutes was used by the United States as evidence of compliance with the moral rights requirements of the Berne Convention. So aside from the complete moral bankruptcy of opposing laws that would give Prince’s legacy the protection it deserves, failing to do so may actually have legal consequences.
Evidence of just how profitable scamming on Prince’s death has itself become evident as this right-thinking bill to give Prince in death the protection of the law that abandoned him during his lifetime is apparently being opposed by unnamed forces on First Amendment grounds and by unnamed forces with concerns about “unintended consequences”. Good thing unnamed forces are concerned about those unintended consequences with the DMCA notice and shakedown, right?
Those who have been on the receiving end of Silicon Valley attacks to protect piracy and counterfeit goods on “free speech” grounds will recognize this modus operandi–particularly the unnamed sources part. Next thing you know, they will be saying that stopping a counterfeit t-shirt is censorship.
That’s right. The Devil’s Greatest Trick.