Prince Estate Aims to Show Tidal "Fabricated" Equity Deal

An ongoing copyright lawsuit explores what evidence needs to be handed over.
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Prince

Does Jay Z's Tidal have proper authority to stream over 500 Prince songs? Yes, says Roc Nation, saying Tidal got a license both in writing and orally to be the first streaming outlet to distribute many of the iconic musician's albums. NPG Records and NPG Music Publishing, two entities now controlled by Prince's Estate, continue to insist otherwise in an ongoing copyright lawsuit

On Friday, in a push for more documents, NPG told the judge of having "uncovered evidence that the alleged contract the Defendants are relying on in this action — the Equity Term Sheet — was fabricated and back-dated to appear authentic."

Tidal famously has given an ownership percentage to some of the big-name artists who agreed to let their works be exploited. Before he passed away in April 2016, Prince certainly made a deal with Tidal for a recorded studio album titled Hit n Run, but NPG says there's no evidence that the agreement contemplated other works or that Prince was ever issued Tidal equity before the dispute arose.

NPG is now after documents pertaining to the circumstances of the execution of the alleged equity deal, but argues being "stymied by improper privilege claims."

Specifically, NPG has eyes on communications from Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, who may have been the closest thing to Prince's manager. 

"Contemporaneous communications between the parties are inconsistent with Tidal’s contention that Ellis-Lamkins signed the Equity Term Sheet on Prince’s behalf on July 19, 2015," states a heavily redacted motion in Minnesota federal court.

Among the messages being withheld are emails with subject lines like "P would like to speak with J" and "Can u tell P to call right back for 1 second J has 1 question they just got off." 

If Prince and Jay-Z spoke on the phone, though, and came to some sort of deal, perhaps bolstered by the later delivery of materials, NPG sees enough in the timing of messages as well as what's previously been produced in litigation to be suspicious.

Roc Nation and the other defendants are holding these Ellis-Lamkins messages back over an alleged "common interest" with her. They say she shares serious concerns about how the former administrator of Prince's Estate dealt with rights and conducted transactions. Asserting attorney-client privilege, they'd prefer she be deposed as a witness.

NPG rejects any "common interest," asserting that Ellis-Lamkins was really concerned about how she was removed from the manager of Prince's companies, and that this "personal" and non-legal interest doesn't merit the shielding of documents.

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