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Prince estate accuses Tidal of fabricating a contract

By | Published on Tuesday 14 November 2017


The Prince estate has accused Tidal of possibly fabricating and back-dating a contract in the latest chapter in the ongoing dispute over what rights the streaming service has to stream the late musician’s music.

As previously reported, Prince entered into a deal with the Jay-Z led Tidal before his untimely death last year. That deal definitely included granting Tidal exclusivity over at least some of Prince’s new material – ie what turned out to be his final releases – though there is a dispute over whether it also provided rights, exclusive or otherwise, to stream much of the musician’s back catalogue as well.

Tidal says it did, but the Prince estate has argued that there is no evidence of the wider deal. And with that in mind, this time last year the estate’s interim administrator, the Bremer Trust – via Prince’s NPG label and publishing business – sued various companies associated with Tidal, including Jay-Z’s Roc Nation.

The legal battle has been rumbling on ever since, with Tidal insisting that it reached both written and oral agreements with Prince – and one of his business advisors, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins – which offered the pop star equity in the streaming business in return for some exclusive rights to both future and past releases.

Last week, the estate went back to court seeking access to a bunch more documents from Tidal, in particular emails sent between the digital firm and Ellis-Lamkins.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the estate’s most recent legal filing with the federal court in Minnesota states that “contemporaneous communications between the parties are inconsistent with Tidal’s contention that Ellis-Lamkins signed the equity term sheet on Prince’s behalf on 19 Jul 2015”.

Moreover, the estate told the judge it has “uncovered evidence that the alleged contract the defendants are relying on in this action – the equity term sheet – was fabricated and back-dated to appear authentic”.

Tidal doesn’t want to share with the Prince estate all of its former correspondence with Ellis-Lamkins, citing legal technicalities as to why it shouldn’t be forced to do so. It says the estate should instead request a deposition to question Prince’s former business advisor.

However, lawyers for the estate dispute the cited technicalities, arguing that the court should force Tidal to hand over the emails it reckons contain important information about the musician’s negotiations with Jay-Z.

It remains to be seen how the court now rules on that request, but either way it seems there are plenty of legal wranglings still to come in this dispute.