To say that the battle between Prince's estate and Jay Z has escalated quickly is an understatement. Just a few days a ago, Prince's estate sent a letter to Jay Z in which they rejected his $40 million offer to purchase Prince's music. In the letter they also claimed that Jay Z illegally made the "Purple Rain" singer's albums available for stream on his Tidal streaming service, and that they were seeking compensation. A couple days later, Jay Z and his team went on the offensive, with Roc Nation filing a petition on Tidal's behalf, claiming that they had exclusive streaming rights to Prince's albums. Now, Prince's estate is firing back with a full-on lawsuit.
Prince's estate, his record label NPG Records Inc, and NPG Music Publishing are suing Jay Z's Roc Nation management firm over Tidal's streaming of Prince's catalog. According to the lawsuit, Tidal only had permission to stream Prince's latest album, HITNRUN Phase One, exclusively for 90 days after it debuted in September 2015. Roc Nation, in the petition filed in Minnesota earlier this week, claimed that they have "the right to exclusively stream [Prince's] entire catalogue of music, with certain limited exceptions."
NPG Records does admit that Tidal did have the right to make some of Prince's songs available for streaming, but claims that a majority of the works they made available on their service were without authorization. NPG states the following in the complaint, "Tidal and Roc Nation did not communicate with Bremer Trust [the court-appointed administrator of Prince's estate or Plaintiffs following Mr. Nelson's death about its decision to expand the offering of Prince works on the Tidal service."
The complaint goes on to say, "Roc Nation and/or its affiliates have reproduced, distributed, and publicly performed, and continues to reproduce, distribute, and publicly perform, Prince Copyrighted Works without permission." As such, the unauthorized streaming of the songs amounts to copyright infringement, "in violation of Plaintiffs' exclusive rights under 17 U.S.C. § 106."
The plaintiffs are demanding $1 BILLION from the defendants in the case, which likely will not come to fruition. The maximum statutory amount that is allowed for willful infringement is $150,000 per copyright, which means that, across 120 songs, the most that Tidal would have to pay in a worst case scenario would be $18 million, plus fees.
For what it's worth, Prince's entire catalog is still available for streaming on Tidal.