Prince Estate Sues Tidal, The Streaming Service That's Kind To Artists, For Copyright Infringement

from the wave dept

When Jay-Z’s music streaming service launched nearly two years ago, it put forth two key selling points. One was exclusive releases that would only be available on Tidal. The other was a promise as to how artist-friendly it would be. In the wake of the froth-filled mouths of many other streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, Tidal would be a shining example of how a streaming music platform could be built that would be successful while being fair to the musical artists whose work it streamed. This has failed on both levels. On the question of being successful, Tidal’s launch was a fizzle, and the news into this year isn’t particularly encouraging, with subscriber accounts reportedly being a fraction of that of other streaming services. And, of course, because Tidal is a music streaming service, lawsuits and claims by artists that they were not being fairly compensated began rolling in almost immediately.

And they haven’t ended. According to reports, the estate of Prince is suing Tidal for copyright infringement, claiming that Tidal is streaming Prince’s catalog without authorization.

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.

Now, Roc Nation claims that it received authorization to stream the fifteen albums in question, both verbally and in writing. And, hey, maybe that’s true. But if it is, it’s clear that Prince’s estate has not been shown any of this paperwork. In addition, the estate is claiming that an advance owed to Prince by Tidal was never paid, either. It would be strange for the estate to have the paperwork that everyone agrees authorized some Prince music, but somehow not have the paperwork authorizing the other fifteen albums.

Which isn’t really the point. The real point is that setting up a streaming service on claims that it would be so friendly to artists so as to avoid this kind of thing was doomed to fail from the beginning. It’s in the nature of the music industry and its convoluted business arrangements and licensing terms to pull the rug out from internet streaming services. You can set your watch by it. Perhaps now those at Tidal might have some sympathy for their competition.

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Companies: tidal

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Comments on “Prince Estate Sues Tidal, The Streaming Service That's Kind To Artists, For Copyright Infringement”

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17 Comments
Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

Well no one wants to say told you so but in this case there is a genuine dispute that Tidal could stream all of Prince’s music.

Everyone is friendly until they feel they arent getting paid. Prince estate has said that Tidal does not have a license for all of Prince music and that the license is only for certain music titles.

No system is going to be lawsuit free it just isnt possible, so disputes are going to happen and this case is no different with the exception of what and how the artists who signed on with tidal would be treated. Apparently those very word have come back to haunt Jay Z

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Well no one wants to say told you so but in this case there is a genuine dispute that Tidal could stream all of Prince’s music. “

Which only strengthens the idea that the music industry is a huge part of its own problems. There are 2 possibilities here – either Tidal honestly believed it had the rights, but a mistake was made because of how convoluted the system is. Alternatively, whoever is running Tidal’s licencing is corrupt and/or incompetent enough that they didn’t do the checks and licencing required.

In other words, whether accidentally or deliberately, a place playing Prince’s music may not have been authorised to do so. This type of thing ultimately only leads to fragmentation and confusion in the market and thus people resorting to piracy and/or competing artists, because they’re not going to pay monthly subscriptions to multiple services to fill in the gaps, let alone make high value individual purchases just because something isn’t easily streaming.

“Prince estate has said that Tidal does not have a license for all of Prince music and that the license is only for certain music titles.”

Also, this needs to be proven in court. There are many times where an estate will make false claims hoping for a quick settlement, especially in cases like this where the artists “feel” they should be paid more to begin with.

I dislike’s Tidal’s unsupported claims about other services and their anti-consumer approach (yes, artificial restrictions are anti-consumer, and ultimately they need to charge more to pay the higher royalties they promised). But, even they deserve their day in court and the presumption of innocence before we assume that any accusation is true.

Aaron Walkhouse (profile) says:

The Prince estate is a big mess that isn't organized yet.

It’s no surprise they haven’t found all of their contracts or
sorted out all the deals Prince made over the years.

It should be a surprise lawyers jumped on a chance to charge
millions in fees to sort things out in court instead of at
their offices and desks, but they tend to want others to do
the detailed work and collect paychecks instead. ;]

Anonymous Coward says:

I never believed the bullshit that Tidal was claiming anyway. It sounds to me that once Tidal had an agreement to the one album, that Tidal interpreted that agreement to mean that they could list ALL of Prince’s albums. I hope they get their asses sued off. They’ve turned into the same hideous monster that Apple and all of those other digital music services have turned into, with their Hollywood-style accounting and not wanting to pay out royalties to those people who created that content on their service.

LOLS

I hope they crash and burn, which is exactly where they’re heading. They need to haul Jay Z’s ass into court and sue him for all he’s worth.

Anonymous Coward says:

MadAsASnake, nothing in this world is free. Tidal had a responsibility to get agreements in writing for the other 15 albums in Prince’s library and they didn’t. You cannot just get the rights to one album and then assume you have the rights to the others.

Tidal misappropriated Prince’s music and that’s why they are being sued for copyright infringement. Sounds nothing more than a pirate site like ThePirateBay.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Oh, Jay-Z, mate, you were supposed to know better about how copyright licensing works than t’other lot and it seems that they are more savvy than you are!”

As always with this type of situation, there’s 2 possibilities the way I see it. One is that this shows that the current regime is too complicated for even people who spend their entire careers working within it to use and understand correctly. Thus it desperately needs to be reformed.

The other possibility is that the people “protected” by these rules have no qualms about openly bypassing the rules the moment it stands to personally enrich them. It neither protects their work nor deters their behaviour. It does, however, negatively impact the rest of society and thus desperately needs to be reformed.

Anonymous Coward says:

AC, then if Tidal had an agreement with the copyright holders, explain to the rest of us how they can’t produce proof that they had an agreement.

Fact is, they can’t provide proof because they never had an agreement. IN the world everyone lives in, unless you have an agreement in writing, then you don’t have a legal agreement to do as you please.

Chances are, the copyright holders (aside from the Prince estate) haven’t gotten around to filing action against Tidal.

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