Music Monday -Tidal Making Waves Over Prince Dispute

Prince has always been known as a lover of his craft and never taking much thought in settling his business and financial affairs, so it is not a surprise that his estate has been facing troubling waters after his passing last April.

Shortly after Prince’s passing, the administrator of his estate authorized a copyright lawsuit against Jay Z’s Roc Nation for putting 15 of Princes albums on their streaming service Tidal.  The complaint was filed in Minnesota federal court. The suit challenges that Tidal was only given an exclusive license for a newly recorded studio album titled “Hit n Run.” The exclusive license was only to run for a 90-day term.

Roc Nation responded in probate court alleging they were granted wider rights to “exclusively stream [Prince’s] entire catalog of music, with certain limited exceptions.”  The defendants assert that NPG Records, who filed on behalf of Prince, lacked valid copyright registrations and thus the case should be thrown out since the plaintiffs “lack the requisite authority to authorize the instant lawsuit” and “are not the real parties in interest with respect to the claims asserted.”

Since the filing, there have also been deals made with other streaming services and Prince’s recordings are to appear on Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Amazon Prime, iHeartRadio and elsewhere.

Temporarily, the copyright suit against Tidal remains active and now Aspiro AB, Swedish co-owner of Tidal, is preparing to barrel down on their defense adding more than just the “Hit and Run” licensing agreement as their main argument. The defendants brought up an Equity Term Sheet which was dated July 19, 2015, where Prince, aka Nelson, “became an artist equity-owner of TIDAL and received additional consideration.” Meaning, that Prince may have extended Tidal’s rights through this action. The defendants assert that this granted Tidal streaming rights to Prince’s entire catalog.

However, the plaintiffs argue that since the Equity Term Sheet can be contradicted by other evidence submitted by the other side, such as a Power of Attorney which evidenced that the Equity Term Sheet was in fact signed on Price’s behalf and not from Prince himself, the use of the document evidencing the granting of wider rights seems unsubstantiated.

When an artist like Prince negates clarity in handling their legal affairs and at often times delegate duties, it makes it difficult to pin point and process deals.

Credit: Jessica Wong

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