There is a battle brewing over songs by Minnesota’s own Prince. I, for one, am anxious for the dispute to be resolved so we can enjoy these recordings. Who knows, there may be another worldwide hit “Purple Rain” out there.
The initial lawsuit was brought by Prince’s company Paisley Park Enterprises, which is now owned by his estate and its representative Comerica Bank & Trust, N.A. (Collectively “Prince’s Estate”). Prince’s estate filed a Statement of Claim against George Boxill who was the sound engineer who worked with Prince on several music performance recordings. Before working with Prince, Mr. Boxill signed a confidentiality agreement. Prince’s estate states that the agreement explicitly stated that all recordings from the consultation remained the property of Paisley Park Enterprise. In 2006, Boxill worked with Prince to record five songs that have not been released yet. Other songs from this work were released on Prince’s album titled 3/21, which credited Boxill as a sound engineer. However, that same year, Boxill refused to return the five recordings to Paisley Park Enterprises. Prince’s estate now argues that this refusal to return the musical recordings violated his agreement.
A year after Prince’s untimely and tragic death, and ten years after working with Prince, Boxill mixed and edited the Prince songs. Boxill and Rogue Music Alliance, LLC and Deliverance, LLC (“music companies”) began promoting and selling the recordings under the name of “Prince” on the website www.princerogersnelson.com (the artist’s full name). They issued a press release announcing a nationwide release of an EP titled Deliverance that included songs by the late iconic Prince. This caused Prince’s estate to commence arbitration against Boxill and another case against Boxill and the music companies in federal court to stop the release of the songs and return them to Prince’s estate.
On April 20, 2018 (five days before the evidentiary hearing in the arbitration proceedings), Boxill and the music companies filed an emergency motion in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota to enjoin the arbitration. United States District Court Judge Wilhelmina Wright denied the motion.
Boxill and the companies filed another motion to stay the hearing, arguing that the Copyright Act preempted the state law claims asserted in the arbitration proceedings. Judge Wright again denied the motion and ruled that the Eight Circuit lacked jurisdiction to review her order. Despite this second order, Boxill filed the appeal. Prince’s estate not only opposed the appeal but also asked for sanctions against Boxill and the record companies. The Eighth Circuit denied both motions.
Hopefully, this dispute will be resolved quickly and we can all enjoy recordings from the late great Prince.