Universal’s $31 million deal with the Prince estate has been declared void in court.
Judge Kevin Eide has ruled that the deal was a conflict with Warner Music’s long ongoing rights with the catalogue. Warner released every Prince album from his 1978 debut ‘For You’ through to ‘Chaos and Disorder’, his 18th album in 1996.
In February, Universal announced “a multi-year agreement with the Estate of Prince Rogers Nelson and NPG Records Inc., effective immediately, that grants UMG exclusive licensing rights to the iconic artist’s Grammy-winning NPG recordings, including a library of 25 albums and his highly anticipated trove of unreleased works”.
The statement also included “In addition, beginning next year UMG will obtain U.S. rights to certain renowned Prince albums released from 1979 to 1995”. That is the era of the 18 Warner albums.
Universal claimed they were lured into the deal under the impression that the Prince estate had rights to the titles under Warner Music Group and that the company would acquire those rights.
Judge Eide concluded, “As previously noted, this Court believes that the Estate must proceed in a cautious manner to preserve the assets of the Estate. While the rescission of the UMG 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.”
Advisor for the Prince estate L. Londell McMillian said, “There was no wrongdoing on our end. We stand by our work.”