Prince’s Estate Sues Jay Z Over Streaming Rights

MINNEAPOLIS (CN) – Prince’s estate filed a federal lawsuit against hip-hop tycoon Jay Z’s Roc Nation, in a fight over who has the rights to stream the late artist’s music.

NPG Records Inc. and NPG Music Publishing LLC sued Roc Nation LLC in Minnesota federal court on Tuesday.

The NPG entities own copyrighted works written and recorded by Prince, and claim they entered into a letter of intent on Aug. 1, 2015, with WiMP Music AS aka Tidal, an online music service run by Jay Z’s Roc Nation.

Tidal was granted an exclusive license for exploitation of “the next newly recorded studio LP by the recording artist known as Prince,” which turned out to be 2015’s “Hit N Run: Phase 1′,” according to the nine-page complaint.

The license’s exclusivity period granted to Tidal, however, was for only 90 days, NPG says.

NPG claims that, starting on June 7 of this year, Roc Nation, through Tidal, has been exploiting Prince music that was not part of the “Hit N Run” deal.

Neither Tidal nor Roc Nation communicated with Prince’s estate about the decision to expand Prince’s catalog on Tidal, the complaint states.

Roc Nation has claimed in multiple court filings that it had “various agreements between the relevant parties,” both oral and written, according to the complaint, but NPG says Roc Nation has not provided any documentation to prove the existence of the agreements.

“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…[Prince’s estate] has terminated, in writing, any such license that might have existed,” the complaint states.”

NPG Records and NPG Publishing ask the court to enjoin Roc Nation from reproducing, distributing and publicly performing Prince’s copyrighted work, and they seek damages for alleged copyright infringement.

They are represented by Katherine Moerke with Stinson Leonard Street LLP in Minneapolis.

Roc Nation did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.