Although it was originally billed as being an artist-friendly service crammed with exclusive content, Tidal's success on both counts is questionable and now, in addition to its tepid launch and low subscription numbers, the service is the subject of a Prince Estate lawsuit, after the company allegedly streamed the artist's catalog without authorization.
Guest post by Timothy Geigner of Techdirt
When Jay-Z's music streaming service launched nearly two years ago, it put forth two key selling points. One was exclusive releases that would only be available on Tidal. The other was a promise as to how artist-friendly it would be. In the wake of the froth-filled mouths of many other streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, Tidal would be a shining example of how a streaming music platform could be built that would be successful while being fair to the musical artists whose work it streamed. This has failed on both levels. On the question of being successful, Tidal's launch was a fizzle, and the news into this year isn't particularly encouraging, with subscriber accounts reportedly being a fraction of that of other streaming services. And, of course, because Tidal is a music streaming service, lawsuits and claims by artists that they were not being fairly compensated began rolling in almost immediately.
And they haven't ended. According to reports, the estate of Prince is suing Tidal for copyright infringement, claiming that Tidal is streaming Prince's catalog without authorization.
Prince’s estate is suing Roc Nation for copyright infringement, claiming that Tidal does not have permission to stream large portions of Prince’s catalog. The lawsuit, first reported by the StarTribune, accuses Jay Z’s company of illegally adding 15 additional albums from Prince’s catalog to its offerings back in June.
Both Roc Nation and Prince’s estate acknowledge the initial agreement between Prince and Roc Nation that gave Tidal the right to exclusively stream HitNRun: Phase 1 for 90 days, but that’s where the agreement ends.
Now, Roc Nation claims that it received authorization to stream the fifteen albums in question, both verbally and in writing. And, hey, maybe that's true. But if it is, it's clear that Prince's estate has not been shown any of this paperwork. In addition, the estate is claiming that an advance owed to Prince by Tidal was never paid, either. It would be strange for the estate to have the paperwork that everyone agrees authorized some Prince music, but somehow not have the paperwork authorizing the other fifteen albums.
Which isn't really the point. The real point is that setting up a streaming service on claims that it would be so friendly to artists so as to avoid this kind of thing was doomed to fail from the beginning. It's in the nature of the music industry and its convoluted business arrangements and licensing terms to pull the rug out from internet streaming services. You can set your watch by it. Perhaps now those at Tidal might have some sympathy for their competition.