Fans of the late musical icon Prince may never be able to admire the content stored inside two of the artist's storage vaults due battles over rights to his estate, according to the New York Times.
When musician passed in April 2016, he left behind hundreds or even thousands of songs with no plan and no will. "But a conflict in Prince’s estate over a $31 million deal with Universal for music rights means that much of the vault may not see daylight for months or even years to come," the Times reported.
Kevin W. Eide of Carver County District Court in Chaska, Minn., the judge overseeing Prince's estate, described the conflict as "personal and corporate mayhem."
At the beginning of the year things seemed to be on the right track, however, Universal decided it wanted to cancel its deal for Prince's recorded music which would have included rights to most of the vault as well as those attached to later albums.
One of the most important things was "a timetable for obtaining American release rights for some of Prince’s early hits, after the expiration of existing deals with Warner Bros.," the Times reported.
The Times explained:
Universal said that it had been “misled and likely defrauded” by representatives of Bremer Trust, the Minnesota bank charged with administering the estate, and demanded its money back. According to Universal, it learned after closing the deal that some of the rights it had paid for conflicted with those held by Warner, through a confidential deal that company signed with Prince in 2014.
Judge Eide has allowed Universal’s lawyers to finally view the Warner contract, and the company’s response is expected this week. Whatever happens, music executives say, the episode may harm the estate and complicate efforts to make another deal.
Some experts believe that no matter the ending, it will come with a price. "I don’t think there’s an outcome that is free of cost," Lisa Alter, a copyright lawyer told the Times. Alter, however, is not involved with the case. But she also doesn't believe there is an outcome "that is free of some damage to the estate in terms of throwing a cloud over what the rights really are."
Music executives have said that it's quite rare for a deal like Universal's to be canceled. "And the story has become all the more riveting with allegations of mismanagement and deception on the part of estate representatives, including L. Londell McMillan, a lawyer who once represented Prince and was an adviser to Bremer," the Times reported.