Recently, 22 fans of pop icon Prince (a.k.a. the artist formerly known as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince”) were served notice that they were being sued for $1 million each. The allegation? According to the complaint, each of the defendants had committed multiple instances of copyright infringement by posting links to unlicensed copies of Prince’s concerts. Fortunately for these alleged bootleggers, the Purple One voluntarily dismissed his $22 million lawsuit a few days later, just as soon as the offending posts had been removed.
But these individuals may not want to “party like it’s 1999” just yet, as Prince is free to refile his complaint at any time. And if these bloggers post any more unauthorized links, they may learn the hard way that intentionally infringing on a copyright can be a very costly mistake. For while statutory damages under 17 U.S.C. § 504 can be as little as $200 per work for unintentional infringements, damages can be as high as $150,000 per work if the infringements are willful. A case that illustrates this point is Capitol Records, Inc. v. Thomas-Rasset (2007).