Prince’s estate is suing Roc Nation for copyright infringement, claiming that Tidal does not have permission to stream large portions of Prince’s catalog. The lawsuit, first reported by the StarTribune, accuses Jay Z’s company of illegally adding 15 additional albums from Prince’s catalog to its offerings back in June.
Both Roc Nation and Prince’s estate acknowledge the initial agreement between Prince and Roc Nation that gave Tidal the right to exclusively stream HitNRun: Phase 1 for 90 days, but that’s where the agreement ends.
Prince’s estate claims that Tidal began “exploiting many copyrighted Prince works in addition to the works that comprise the ‘HitNRun: Phase 1’ album,” when it added those 15 albums to its catalog in June. Roc Nation filed paperwork stating it has oral and written agreements with Prince’s label NPG Records that grant Tidal the right to “exclusively stream [Prince's] entire catalog of music, with limited exception” for the next five years. Prince’s estate says Roc Nation hasn’t provided any documentation to back up those claims.
So why is this lawsuit coming up now? Last month, Prince’s estate signed a deal with Universal Music Publishing Group, making the company the exclusive worldwide publishing administrator for Prince’s music catalog. For Prince’s estate, limiting Prince’s catalog to Tidal for five years isn’t the greatest financial decision when you’re trying to maximize profits. And for Tidal, which has grown largely off the back of exclusive content, losing the rights to Prince’s catalog would be a blow to the company which likely can’t afford many more.
Tidal has yet to respond to a request for comment.