It was all good just a week ago. Recent reports have surfaced that Roc Nation is facing a copyright infringement lawsuit from the estate of Prince over streaming rights to the late artist’s catalog.
According to a report from The Star Tribune, NPG Records Inc. and NPG Music Publishing—which represent the interests of Prince’s musical catalog—are accusing Jay Z’s streaming service Tidal of “exploiting many copyrighted Prince works” by claiming to have the exclusive streaming rights to Prince’s music
Tidal did have exclusive rights to one Prince project, a 90-day right to his recent album HitNRun: Phase 1. The problem started when Tidal made a number of Prince’s projects available for streaming. Prince began pulling much of his music off non-Tidal streaming services back in July 2015. Tidal is known for paying higher royalties than other streaming companies.
According to the Star Tribune report, Roc Nation claims it has a number of “written and oral” agreements allowing it to exclusively stream many albums in Prince’s catalog, but the company has failed to produce written documentation of said agreements.
The plot gets even thicker, because now Universal Music Group has joined the fray, claiming that it had become the “exclusive worldwide publishing administrator for Prince’s entire song catalog, released and unreleased, effective immediately.” Tidal claims that pre-existing contracts between Prince and itself invalidate UMG’s claims.
“Prince’s estate wants to stop Tidal from continuing to distribute Prince’s music—except for HitNRun: Phase 1—via the streaming service and is also seeking an unspecified amount in damages. The lawsuit asks for the case to be decided by a jury.”
Jay Z and Tidal did make an attempt to buy the exclusive rights to Prince’s unreleased catalog for $40 million earlier this year, but the offer was declined by Prince’s estate, which evidently believes the service to already be unlawfully exploiting Prince’s existing catalog. You can read the entire complaint here via Pitchfork.