Prince Fights YouTube, eBay Over Copyrighted Content

Music industry icon Prince is picking a fight with YouTube LLC over unauthorized use of video content on the video-sharing Web site.

To staunch the flow of copyrighted content, Prince hired John Giacobbi, an Internet policing specialist, and president of Web Sheriff, a company that polices the Internet for copyright and trademark infringements. Giacobbi, based in Marlborough, England, said he has been successful on Prince's behalf in getting YouTube to remove thousands of unauthorized files from its Web site. However, he said users then repost the files, so the next day 100 to 200 new files may have been uploaded to the site.

"We notify YouTube of infringements and they remove the files, but it goes on ad infinitum at Prince's expense," he said. "Now the onus is on artists and rights' creators to police YouTube at their expense. But there's a problem with that. It's copyright infringement because no one's been given permission to upload these things, let alone YouTube."

Prince may also take on YouTube in court if necessary, Giacobbi said. "Prince has always stood up for his rights and been proactive in that respect," he said. "It's important to have control of your rights online in this digital age and not leave it to rampant piracy."

A spokeswoman for YouTube said the company has a good relationship with copyright owners.

"Most content owners understand that we respect copyrights, we work every day to help them manage their content, and we are developing state-of-the-art tools to let them do that even better," said YouTube Chief Counsel Zahavah Levine in an e-mail. "We have great partnerships with major music labels all over world that understand the benefit of using YouTube as another way to communicate with their fans."

Giacobbi said YouTube is capable of filtering pornography from its site and questioned why it can't do the same with copyrighted music and film content.

"We would allege that their business model is based on it," he said. "Since they were bought for $5.5 million by Google, you'd think they'd have a healthy [research and development] budget to invest in technology for filtering. We would imagine they have the capabilities."

Giacobbi said Prince is also going after eBay for allowing the sale of unauthorized product lines, including Prince clocks, socks, dolls and mouse pads. He said Prince is also considering legal action against the Web auction site.

"Ebay is doing nothing to stop it," he said. "The onus is on us to notify eBay that something is infringing and they [take action], but they're a multibillion dollar company and they should have the resources to more efficiently audit and police their own Web site."

Ebay said it couldn't comment on rumors of a lawsuit.

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