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Pirates Are Posting Prince's Music to An Obscure Corner of the Internet

Sure, you’ll have to break copyright to find Prince’s music online, but when has that ever stopped pirates?

by Nicholas Deleon
Apr 22 2016, 3:26pm

Image: Penner/Flickr

Prince's music may be difficult to find on the internet legally. Illegally, however, is a whole different matter.

Within just a few hours of Prince's death on Thursday, pirates began uploading his entire catalogue to Usenet, a part of the internet that predates the web that initially functioned as a kind of giant, global message board for text-based discussions. Today, however, Usenet is perhaps best known for facilitating piracy, with high-quality versions of movies and TV shows appearing on the platform well before you'd find them on the likes of The Pirate Bay. Usenet has been a thorn in the side of Hollywood for years, though anti-piracy groups have gotten better at removing infringing content over the past few years.

Of course, this content is then typically re-uploaded moments later, leading to a fruitless game of cat-and-mouse between pirates and copyright minders.

Screenshot: Nicholas Deleon/Motherboard (Full res version here)

Seen above is a screenshot of a popular Usenet indexer that makes it easy to download files from the platform. Albums like 1999 and Purple Rain, as well as various compilation albums, are now readily available for download. You'd still need Usenet service to actually download the files, with premium providers typically charging $20 per month. Obviously, these providers don't advertise the fact that Usenet is a haven for pirates, but instead emphasize the ability to quickly download legally available content like Linux ISOs and other open source software.

A quick scan of several popular, invite-only BitTorrent sites, including What.cd and Waffles, also shows increased activity of Prince torrents since the artist's death was announced.

Bottom line: Prince may not have loved the internet, but the internet loves him, and people aren't going to let pesky things like copyright get in the way of enjoying his music.