The question of who has rights to Prince’s music catalog could be set for a court battle as Roc Nation and Tidal look to stake their claim to exclusive rights to streaming his work, at least for the next few years. The companies filed paperwork in a Minnesota district court on Friday to contest a recently signed agreement between Universal Music Publishing Group and the singer’s estate per Billboard.
In early November, UMPG announced they signed a long term agreement that would make them “responsible for servicing and administering Prince’s expansive catalog of songs” and allow them to “work closely with the artist’s estate to develop new creative outlets for his music.” But, according to the new filing by Roc Nation and Tidal, an existing contract is in place between them and Prince granting the streaming service exclusive rights to his catalog as part of the deal that saw the music icon remove all of his material from other digital outlets.
The new court filings now shed light on the terms of Prince’s deal with Tidal. In July 2015, both parties agreed Tidal would receive exclusive rights to two albums — HITNRUN and the December 2015 follow up HITNRUN Phase 2 — plus one “previously unreleased full-length studio album” over a five-year period in exchange for an advance and a share of streaming royalties. The two then signed another deal in August 2015 for three years or “until the full recoupment of the advance, whichever period was longer. Tidal would also get the right to ‘exclusively stream [Prince’s] entire catalog of music, with limited exceptions’ and retains the rights to exploit both HITNRUN albums in ‘any and all media.'” Their contention is that since neither milestone has been reached, their rights to Prince’s music still stand.
The new court info also reveals there’s been a much longer tug of war going on regarding payments and specifics of any existing deals. Prince’s estate is contesting whether any advance, said to be $750,000 of a supposed $40 million deal, was ever paid and they’re also questioning whether Tidal actually had the right to publish 15 previously-unavailable albums by the Purple One on their service for his birthday this year. For Tidal, they’ve filed three claims this year asserting their rights to the catalog and requested information regarding the estate’s dealings with UMPG but haven’t been given any details. Their contention is any deals struck between UMPG and the estate could ultimately lead to Prince’s work being granted to their streaming competitors, thus violating the terms of the original streaming deal between the company and the late singer.