IP and licensing dispute


Rhonda Trotter helped put an end to rock icon Prince’s 20-year battle with Warner Brothers Records when she secured the musician’s ownership of his master recordings.  Under the terms of a the global partnership which she helped negotiate on Prince’s behalf, Warner Brothers granted back all of Prince’s rights in his recorded music catalogue, which includes best-selling albums such as Dirty Mind, Controversy, 1999, and Purple Rain. In exchange, Prince allows Warner Brothers licensing rights to digitally remaster and reissue the albums he produced from 1978-1990.

Called a “landmark deal” by Billboard, this is one of the few times that an artist has obtained back copyright rights to his master recordings in recent memory, and was reached in the midst of much discussion about the extent to which recording artists will succeed in using the termination provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976. Those provisions allow recording artists to terminate their copyright grants to record companies after 35 years, however, record companies have hinted they may challenge those terminations on various grounds, including that the recordings were purportedly “works for hire” and therefore not eligible for termination under the Act.  

The deal came just a few months before the 30th anniversary of Prince’s Purple Rain album and motion picture. Purple Rain went platinum thirteen times, and in 2008, Entertainment Weekly crowned it the number one album issued in the last 25 years.

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