6 September 2018Copyright

Prince’s estate takes on European network over ‘bootleg’ music

The estate of late singer Prince has taken on several European individuals for allegedly selling the musician’s material without permission.

Prince’s estate, alongside the court-appointed personal representative Comerica Bank & Trust, and Prince’s business Paisley Park Enterprises, filed the copyright and trademark infringement complaint at the US District Court for the District of Minnesota.

According to the claim, France-based Eric Ziani and Frederic Bianco, Marcel Peters, from the Netherlands, Belgium-based Piet Van Ryckeghem, and companies Lovesigne, House Quake and Eye Records have been offering “bootleg Prince music”.

The claim, filed on August 31, also listed several unknown co-conspirators as defendants.

Prince’s estate alleged that the defendants are an “interrelated group of bootleggers” that are conspiring to take advantage of Prince’s worldwide fame. According to the claim, the defendants are achieving this by selling bootlegs of unreleased studio recordings of Prince’s music and unauthorised recordings of live Prince performances.

“To help sell these bootleg recordings, defendants deliberately rely on Prince’s distinctive trademarks as well as Prince’s name, image, and likeness, for which they have neither licence nor authorisation to use,” said the complaint.

Prince’s estate claimed that the European individuals and entities were trading on the substantial goodwill associated with the late singer for their own “unlawful” gain.

According to his estate, Prince chose what songs to release and when. This also extended to recordings of his live shows. As a result, some of his recorded songs were not released before he died on April 21, 2016.

“Prince carefully protected his work and image through IP, including copyrights and trademarks,” read the complaint.

In addition to copyright infringement, the defendants are being sued for trademark infringement and for offering counterfeit products. According to the claim, the individuals and entities have used one or more of Prince’s trademarks by selling products using his marks.

Among the infringed marks is Prince’s famed symbol representing a personalised version of the Egyptian Ankh cross.

The design mark is registered under number 1,822,461 for services related to pre-recorded audio cassettes. The design passed to Prince’s estate upon his death.

Prince’s estate is seeking damages and an injunction against the defendants.

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17 November 2016   The record label of late musician Prince has sued rapper and businessman Jay-Z.
22 April 2016   A trademark application for ‘Prince’ was approved just days before the musician and singer was found dead.
26 February 2019   The estate of late American singer Prince cannot move forward with a copyright case in his home state of Minnesota, a court has ruled.