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Estate Battles and Royalties

Prince & Tidal

After the death of a musician, we commonly hear about battles between the estate of deceased artists and various music companies, regarding the royalties to a deceased artist’s work, who now owns it, and who is entitled to receive royalties now that the artist is no longer alive. The Estate of music legend Prince has faced a number of legal issues while trying to determine inheritance as well as ownership of music and rights. The music streaming platform Tidal, started by rapper Jay-Z, had the exclusive rights to stream Prince’s last album, however, Tidal is now being sued by the estate for illegally streaming all of Prince’s albums on the platform streaming site. Shortly after Prince passed away, Tidal started streaming the entire catalogue of music, expanding it from the 90 day exclusivity clause it had for the one album.

Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones & Sony Productions

The legal battle between Quincy Jones and Sony Music continues over royalties that Jones, a famous music producer, says he is owed for Michael Jackson’s albums that were released after his death. MJJ Productions, the song company that is owned by Jackson’s estate, was underpaid by Sony Productions, which in turn did not give Jones the proper amount owed for the purchasing of songs. An evolving discussion about digital downloads is whether they are to be labeled as licenses or sales. Artists are entitled to half of the net revenues from licensing, however, they are only entitled to 15% of royalties from sales of the music. Previous court decisions have held that viewing these purchases as licenses is more appropriate due to the current digital age.

Jimi Hendrix, Janie Hendrix & Leon Hendrix

Last year, a legal battle was settled between a few of Jimi Hendrix’s siblings, over various copyright infringement and image usage issues. Hendrix’s sister, the sole controller of the late musician’s estate, has been in a legal battle with her brother for over six years, over of the use of Jimi Hendrix’s image and signature, without the permission of the estate. The settlement now bans Hendrix’s brother’s company from using his image due to trademark infringement. The parties settled outside of court for damages regarding the previous usage of Jimi’s image and likeness. The brother now has established other companies that are working to obtain the right to make Jimi Hendrix merchandise. Music from the artist continues to be released over 40 years after his death.

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