As the lawsuits fly, the fight for dollars tied to Prince’s estate intensifies
Prince died on April 21st 2016, and he did so without a known will. This oversight was seen as odd for someone who was always on the cutting edge of the business side of the music industry. Almost 7 months after his death, the lawsuits have begun as his estate led by his sister Tyka Nelson; have taken Jay Z’s Roc Nation to court for copyright infringement. They are claiming that Tidal does not have permission to stream large portions of Prince’s catalog. Prince’s music entities, NPG Records Inc. and NPG Music Publishing, entered into a past agreement giving TIDAL exclusive rights to Prince’s HitNRun: Phase 1 album for 90 days. The complaint states that Roc Nation began exploiting many copyrighted Prince works. Roc Nation has responded claiming there was both an oral and written agreement granting them the right to exclusively stream Prince’s catalog.
All of this could have been avoided with a will. Everyone should have one from the blue collar machinist working long hours in a factory, to the music legend whose net worth is well into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Maybe Prince did not see death as a possibility, or maybe he just simply kept putting it off as more important things like scheduling tours, or recording new music took precedence. Whatever the case, when you do not handle your business, the courts will step in and handle it for you. There is also a zero chance that they will act with the same amount of care that you would have acted with regarding your affairs. Prince resided in the state of Minnesota, and under Minnesota law his money would go to his biological sister, Tyka, and his five surviving half-siblings, John Nelson, Norrine Nelson, Sharon Nelson, Alfred Jackson, and Omarr Baker. This is because his parents are deceased; he was not married, and had no living children. There will surely be other relatives that will pop up fighting for a piece of the estate and this also will have to be decided by a judge. Several people have already sued the estate claiming to be relatives, and many of these cases are unresolved to date.
The lawsuit against Tidal was prompted by an exclusive deal the estate signed with Universal Music Publishing group making the company the exclusive worldwide publishing administrator for Prince’s music catalog. Tidal initially wanted to buy the entire catalog for $40 million but that deal fell through as larger conglomerates began to show interest. This lawsuit more than likely marks the end of the relationship between Tidal and Prince’s estate, and will come as a major blow to Tidal if they lose in the courts. One thing is for sure, the lawyers involved in this battle will get rich and all or most of the confusion could have been avoided with a will. If you don’t have one you are doing your love ones a tremendous disservice, don’t make the lawyers rich and go get a will.