Thursday 17 November 2016

Prince vs Jay Z - the streaming war begins

A court battle over the streaming rights to Prince's back catalogue is looming after the late singer's estate filed a claim in the US courts against Jay Z's Roc Nation and the TIDAL streaming service.

The action on behalf Prince's estate, fronted by NPG Records, claims that Roc Nation and TIDAL is streaming more than a dozen of the star's albums without permission.  The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District of Minnesota court also names NPG Publishing as a plaintiff.

The law suit claims damages, and demands that unlicensed material be taken down: “Roc Nation to account for and pay to Plaintiffs their actual damages in the form of Roc Nation’s profits and Plaintiffs’ damages, or… statutory damages up to the maximum amount allowed for wilful infringement of copyright”.

Prince removed most of his back catalogue from streaming sites including Spotify, Google Play and Apple Music in July 2015. A month later, he released a new album, HitNRun: Phase One exclusively on TIDAL.

TIDAL claims it has licences, "both oral and written", for a wide range of material and “the right to exclusively stream [Prince’s] entire catalogue of music, with certain limited exceptions”. in a statement at the time if the 2015 release, the star praised TIDAL's artist-centric business model, saying it would allow him and his associated acts "to continue making art in the fashion we've grown accustomed 2 [sic]". The NRG claim alleges that a ‘Letter of intent’ was signed by NPG on August 1 last year giving TIDAL permission to stream Prince’s last studio album, Hit N Run: Phase 1 – with an exclusivity period of 90 days. 

However the lawsuit claims TIDAL has gone far beyond any permissions granted, According to the  NPG lawsuit, TIDAL “began exploiting some of these works after Prince’s death and on or about June 7, 2016” without permission and that  the company has repeatedly failed to submit documented evidence that show it has written consent to host the tracks.

Image of Jay Z by Nick Cordes

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