On Tuesday, Nov. 15, the executor of the late Prince Rogers Nelson‘s estate authorized a copyright lawsuit against Jay Z’s record label, Roc Nation. The reason for the lawsuit is that Tidal, the steaming service owned by Jay Z, has 15 of the “Purple Rain” singer’s albums available on the service.
According to the complaint, which was filed in the Minnesota federal court, Prince’s NPG Records came to an agreement with Tidal on Aug. 1, 2015. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that Tidal was given only a 90-day exclusive license for a recently recorded studio album, “Hit N Run: Phase 1.”
In probate court, both Roc Nation and Tidal have filed claims alleging they were given “the right to exclusively stream [Prince’s] entire catalogue of music, with certain limited exceptions,” according to court documents.
However, according to the new lawsuit, Roc Nation has repeatedly ignored requests for any and all evidence of a verbal or written agreement that prove NPG Records granted the access Roc Nation alleges.
“For the avoidance of doubt, and without conceding that Roc Nation had any license, oral, implied or otherwise, to exploit any Prince copyrighted works in addition to those songs on the ‘Hit N Run: Phase 1’ album, to the extent that any such license might exist, Bremer Trust, on behalf of NPG Records, Inc. and NPG Music Publishing, LLC, has terminated, in writing, any such license that might have existed,” the new complaint states.
According to reports, the administrator of Prince’s estate has given Universal Music Group permission to open negotiations with other digital distributors and streaming services about licensing and obtaining the late great Prince’s discography.
Interestingly, Roc Nation has tried to stay ahead of the game, mentioning in the probate case on Nov. 11 that any new deals with other services like Spotify or Apple could potentially be a violation of Roc Nation’s own rights. While demanding information about the specifics of business deals of the Purple One’s estate, Jay Z‘s company stated that it is “concerned that the Special Administrator may be negotiating with third parties concerning the digital streaming of the musical assets or other rights to exploit the musical assets, which prospective arrangements may contravene or negatively impact the rights of Petitioners.”
In an ironic twist, Roc Nation, which insists it has exclusive rights to Prince’s catalog and even issued a cease-and-desist warning to other companies that might stream the artist’s albums, now faces a lawsuit that says it has no rights to the music and is currently committing copyright infringement.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of NPG Records by attorney Katherine Moerke, demands an injunction as well as an unspecified amount of monetary damages.