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Court Voids $31 Million Universal Deal With Prince's Estate
16 July 2017, 03:27 | Jodi Jackson
Court voids $31 million deal between Prince's estate and Universal Music Group
The voiding of the deal - which is highly unusual for such a high-profile contract - is the latest drama over Prince's catalog since the "Purple Rain" star died suddenly without a will in April 2016.
In a statement released on Thursday evening, UMG and the estate said: "Universal Music Group and the Estate of Prince Rogers Nelson welcome the court's approval of our amicable resolution to this matter".
On Thursday, Judge Kevin Eide of Carver County District Court in Chaska, Minnesota, issued an order approving a request to rescind the deal that was filed by Comerica Bank & Trust, the bank that took over as administrator of the estate the day after the deal was signed. He said while rescinding the Universal agreement "may certainly be seen as proceeding with a lack of caution, the Court believes that the other option of long and potentially expensive litigation while tying up the music rights owned by the Estate makes the other option more treacherous".
The prolific Prince kept a storied vault of unreleased music at Paisley Park and his death threw a giant question mark on the songs' fate.
The decision does not affect Universal's other deals with the estate struck by Koppelman and McMillan, which include music publishing and merchandising.
Universal then demanded that the deal be cancelled and accused Mr L. Londell McMillan, a long- time music executive who helped negotiate the deal as an expert adviser to the estate, of deceiving the company over the true rights, which because of a confidentiality clause Universal saw only after it had completed the deal. He said the wording implied physical albums - and not necessarily the fast-growing format of streaming.
Prince was an impassioned critic of how the music business treats artists. However, Prince had cut a new deal with Warner in 2014 that sources say garnered him the rights to the majority of his work released on the label (albeit with certain key exceptions). He refused to stream his music other than through an exclusive deal with rap mogul Jay-Z's Tidal service.
Prince died of an accidental opioid overdose past year.
Universal cited the Jay-Z lyrics before the court. UMG will still retain the rights to administer Prince's music publishing and the rights to merchandise, which further clouds what has already been a confusing and lengthy legal battle. Warner Bros owns these rights until 2021, not 2018 as Universal originally believed.
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