Prince Is Dead: Who Owns the Music?
Halt your red corvettes. Remove your raspberry berets. Take a moment of silence in the purple rain. Prince is dead.
The pop royal was tiny in stature, but he was a hugely influential musical figure, and died relatively young, quite suddenly. Prince was only 57 years old. He leaves behind a lot of music and presumably a sizeable estate. What happened to him and what happens next?
Few Details Available
According to TMZ, Prince had been struggling with the flu mid-month and was rushed to the hospital. He appeared at a concert the next day, reassuring fans that he was fine. Last night, he passed away in his home in Minneapolis, his publicist told the Associated Press.
Prince's death has been met with a flood of sorrow on social media. Fans are inconsolable and already nostalgic. But there are also practical issues arising from such a major creator's passage. Who owns the music now?
Duration of Copyright
Prince wrote countless major hits that have survived decades. With his death, this intellectual property only grows more valuable. He was married and divorced twice and does not seem to have children. Who will inherit his fortune and the right to license his works isn't clear.
But that person or group could decide what happens to Prince's works for the next 70 years. The US Copyright Office explains, "The law automatically protects a work that is created and fixed in a tangible medium of expression on or after January 1, 1978, from the moment of its creation and gives it a term lasting for the author's life plus an additional 70 years."
Much to Manage
Prince won 7 Grammy awards and reportedly sold more than 100 million records during his career. He was inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. So there is no doubt that managing the estate of this giant will be a major task.
He was also involved in numerous contractual disputes that may signal the combative spirit in which his affairs will be settled. An artistic powerhouse always, Prince expressed even his legal sentiments poetically, protesting mischievously with his use of symbols.
Although we may never again party like it's 1999, Prince's music will be played for a long time to come and his majesty will live on. Perhaps ironically, today is also Queen Elizabeth's 90th birthday, the day we heard what it sounds like when doves cry.