Prince’s Estate Files Suit Against Jay Z in Federal Court

By Robyn Collins

Prince’s estate has taken their copyright infringement case against Jay Z’s Roc Nation to federal court. The case directly involves Tidal, Roc Nation’s music streaming service, and the rights to stream Prince’s music.

Related: Jay Z Bids on Prince’s Unreleased Music: Report

The lawsuit acknowledges that before Prince’s death on April 21, his NPG entered into an agreement with Tidal to stream and sell “the next newly recorded studio LP by the recording artist known as Prince,” reports Star Tribune. The album was HitNRun: Phase 1. The letter of intent, dated Aug. 1, 2015, gave Tidal exclusive rights to the material for 90 days, the lawsuit said.

But, the complaint claims that Roc Nation, through Tidal, started on June 7, 2016, “exploiting many copyrighted Prince works in addition to the works that comprise the HitNRun: Phase 1 album.”

Roc Nation insists that on October 21, November 7 and November 11, it filed documents in Carver County District Court asserting it had “both oral and written” agreements to exclusively stream Prince’s entire catalog of music on Tidal. However, Roc Nation did not provide any documents to support that claim despite numerous written requests to do so.

Prince’s estate accuses Roc Nation of copyright infringement by continuing “to reproduce, distribute and publicly perform” Prince’s music. The lawsuit asks for a trial by jury, a court order forcing Roc Nation/Tidal to stop streaming and selling Prince’s music other than HitNRun: Phase 1, and that Roc Nation be ordered to pay unspecified damages.

Prince has recorded more than 35 albums, some of which Tidal was still streaming as of Tuesday (Nov. 15).

Universal Music Publishing Group has announced it had been named “the exclusive worldwide publishing administrator for Prince’s entire song catalog, released and unreleased, effective immediately.” But in documents filed Friday in Carver County, Tidal said its preexisting contract gave it exclusive streaming distribution rights to Prince’s catalog.

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