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Prince's estate sues Tidal over the streaming rights to his music

Prince's estate sues Tidal over the streaming rights to his music
Prince performs in March 2009 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. (Kristian Dowling / Getty Images)

When Tidal landed exclusive streaming rights to Prince's music in 2015, it was seen as a coup for the fledgling service. Prince, a notorious music business skeptic, seemed to believe in Tidal's artist-centric mission and streamed his Baltimore "Rally 4 Peace" on the platform.

But now Prince's catalog might be turning into more of a headache.

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Prince's estate and label NPG Records have sued Roc Nation, Jay Z's management firm, in U.S. District Court in Minnesota in a dispute over how much of Prince's music Tidal actually had license to stream.

The suit from Prince's estate claims that their Tidal agreement included only a 90-day window to stream Prince's 2015 album, "Hit N Run: Phase One." Tidal also currently has much of Prince's entire back catalog available on its service, and the estate claims that Tidal "is exploiting many copyrighted Prince works."

"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, Bremer Trust, on behalf of NPG Records Inc. and NPG Music Publishing LLC, has terminated, in writing, any such license that might have existed," the estate wrote in the complaint.

However, in its own petition, Roc Nation and Tidal claim they had licenses, "both oral and written" to stream a wide variety of Prince's catalog material. In court papers, Tidal claimed to have "the right to exclusively stream [Prince's] entire catalog of music, with certain limited exceptions."

The firm claims that Prince's estate may be pursuing other outlets for streaming that could infringe on their own agreement, and they are "concerned that the special administrator may be negotiating with third parties concerning the digital streaming of the musical assets, or other rights to exploit the musical assets" with companies like Apple or Spotify.

Prince's estate and NPG Records are seeking both an injunction to stop Tidal's streaming of Prince's back catalog and unspecified damages.

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