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Prince companies sue Tidal over catalogue streams

By | Published on Thursday 17 November 2016


Prince’s NPG record label and music publishing business – now controlled by the Bremer Trust, which is administering the late musician’s estate – has sued Jay-Z’s Roc Nation over Tidal streaming a whole load of records from the Prince catalogue, allegedly without licence.

Prior to his death, Prince pulled much of his music of other streaming platforms when he allied with Tidal around the release of what turned out to be his final two albums, ‘Hit N Run Phase One’ and ‘Hit N Run Phase Two’. Tidal enjoyed a period of exclusivity on both those records, making them available to subscribers on its streaming service, and for sale on both download and CD.

Tidal’s Prince alliance seemed to cover catalogue too, giving Jay-Z’s service the edge following the musician’s death, when everyone wanted to stream the classics. But, says NPG’s lawsuit, it is not aware of any licence giving Tidal the rights to stream older Prince material, despite Jay-Z’s company insisting an agreement is in place.

This is according to a new lawsuit filed by the NPG companies this week. The legal papers confirm that Prince did enter into an agreement with Tidal around his new material which was outlined in a letter of intent that “granted an exclusive licence to Tidal for the exploitation of ‘the next newly recorded studio LP by the recording artist known as Prince'”.

That LP was ‘Hit N Run Phase One’ and the agreement gave Tidal 90 days of exclusivity from the day the deal was done.

Beyond this, the lawsuit goes on, the Prince estate is “not aware of any agreements with Roc Nation or Tidal by NPG Records or NPG Music Publishing other than the letter of intent”, yet “Roc Nation, through its Tidal service, is exploiting many copyrighted Prince works in addition to the works that comprise the ‘Hit N Run Phase One’ album”.

After being appointed to administrate Prince’s estate, the Bremer Trust seemingly asked Tidal and Roc Nation for any documents it had beyond the letter of intent that allowed it to stream other recordings controlled by NPG. Roc Nation subsequently made three filings to the court overseeing the Prince estate stating that it had “oral and written” agreements giving it the exclusive right to stream the star’s entire catalogue.

However, claims the Bremer Trust, “despite [our] repeated requests, and Roc Nation’s multiple filings [to the court], Tidal and Roc Nation have not provided any documentation or evidence of any oral or implied agreement granting Roc Nation any rights beyond those rights granted in the letter of intent”.

So that’s all fun. The lawsuit wants the court to order Tidal to stop streaming all and any Prince tunes other than those on ‘Hit N Run Phase One’ while seeking unspecified damages.