A photographer’s viral video of Prince fans singing “Purple Rain” outside First Avenue on the night of his death in 2016 is back up on Twitter, three days after Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG) ordered the clip to be taken down due to copyright infringement.
Billboard and NME magazines and Prince fans worldwide picked up on the story, which started Tuesday when Twitter sent Star Tribune photographer Aaron Lavinsky a so-called DMCA notice (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) on behalf of Universal over its removal of the video.
All that attention apparently caught Universal’s and Twitter’s attention. Lavinsky received a new notice on Friday afternoon alerting him the video had been reinstated.
“We have ceased disabling access to the material,” read the note from Twitter.
Lavinsky first tweeted out his clip of the historic moment from the roof of First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis during the impromptu memorial party outside the club on April 21, 2016, hours after news of Prince’s death arrived.
The swelling crowd of around 10,000 people can be heard singing loudly as “Purple Rain” — recorded live inside First Ave in 1983 — plays in the background over the speakers. Lavinsky remembered, “By the time I got over to the other side of the roof, it had been retweeted 1,500 times.”
The video — used in a collage of footage by photojournalists from that night documented at StarTribune.com — has since been shared more than 14,000 times and received 17,000 likes on Twitter. Those numbers likely raised a red flag at Universal, which controls much of Prince’s song publishing rights.
“These file(s) offer access to unlicensed exploitations of musical compositions owned or controlled by UMPG,” read the initial notice from Universal, which has not responded to requests for comment.
“They’re stealing this moment from Prince fans,” Lavinsky complained after the video’s removal. “It was their moment of grieving. It wasn’t Universal Music’s moment.”
Lavinsky tweeted about the DMCA order Tuesday, and City Pages and other fans picked up on the news. Tweets from as far away as Israel and Argentina complained about Universal’s and Twitter’s action.
“Pretty dangerous how these services can dictate everything even when they are in the wrong,” tweeted a Polish fan, Cezary Graf (@CrytpoPoland).
As Billboard pointed out, Universal’s shuttering of Lavinsky’s clip hewed closely to a high-profile 2007 legal case over a highly viral video of a toddler dancing to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” which UMPG also ordered taken down. The mother of the toddler fought Universal — and won — over rights to the clip, a fight now ostensibly averted in this case.