When Prince was alive, he was a fierce opponent of having his music distributed online.
“The internet was over for anyone who wants to get paid, and I was right about that,” Prince told The Guardian in 2010. “Tell me a musician who’s got rich off digital sales. Apple’s doing pretty good though, right?”
In fact, Prince banned his work from appearing on Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud, YouTube, Deezer, and even bankrupted platforms like Rdio.
Which, inevitably, has led to an explosion of pirated copies of his songs appearing on sites like TorrentFreak. Within 24 hours of Prince’s death being announced, the site saw more than 100,000 people illegally obtain songs from his back catalog.
To combat this, Prince’s estate has been working with Web Sheriff to help keep the internet free of illegal copies of his work. When Prince was alive, he was a keen advocate of Web Sheriff’s services and had been working with the company since 2007.
Since his death however, the company has been firing thousands of take down requests to Google, reports TorrentFreak.
In the first week follwing Prince’s passing, Web Sheriff filed 1,265 takedown notices with Google, instructing the company to remove links to pirated content primarily available on torrent sites.
But as fast as Web Sheriff issues demands, new sites pop up to offer songs. Legitimate channels have struggled to keep up with the pace at which illegal providers have managed to unearth rare live performances, B-sides and previously un-released material to anyone on the hunt for a piece of Prince (we’re choosing to not link to this content, but found it within five minutes of looking).
Of course, it’s a shame that people are having to pilfer his work from sources that won’t help tie up the loose ends that have left his estate and family in chaos.
But, in the three days prior to his death, Prince sold just 1,700 copies of his work worldwide. If this spike in piracy shows anything, it was that the artist – and his work – still matters and is still worth fighting for.