When internationally famous artist Prince was set to release a new EP on the anniversary of his own death, it took everyone by surprise. Fans were elated, but that elation would turn to disappointment within a day of the announcement. The EP, containing a new song called "Deliverance," wasn't to be released after all.
A former Prince sound engineer with access to the original recordings had produced the EP. According to a lawsuit filed by Prince's estate representative, Comerica Bank & Trust, and his production company, Paisley Park Enterprises, the sound engineer worked on the song with Prince in 2006 but it was never released.
According to the estate, the sound engineer should not have removed anything from Paisley Park, especially the music. In fact, the estate had demanded he return any and all recordings of Prince in his possession on March 21. The man refused.
It's unclear why he refused, or why he believes he had the right to release Prince's music. He might have been given the recordings as a gift, for example, but even that wouldn't give him the rights to produce and release the music, according to the estate. Moreover, he allegedly signed a confidentiality agreement when working with Prince, and releasing "Deliverance" for his personal gain would have breached that agreement.
The lawsuit was originally filed in Minnesota, the state where Prince lived, but it has been transferred to federal court. The estate argued before the federal judge on Wednesday that the release of the EP should not be allowed and that, if it were, it would damage important relationships the estate has with business partners.
"[The sound engineer] is threatening to exploit the personal interests of a deceased person that do not belong to him," reads the complaint. "The Estate has not granted permission to [him] to use or distribute Prince's performances," it continues. "If [he] publishes sound recordings Prince made before he died without authorization, it deprives Prince (and now the Estate) from choosing what is released to the public and when."
Prince's estate is responsible for maximizing the value of any unreleased recordings, and allowing the sound engineer to interfere in this way violates the estate's rights.
The federal judge agreed and granted a temporary restraining order preventing the sound engineer from releasing the recording until and unless the lawsuit is decided in his favor.