Prince Makes Peace with Warner Bros. Records, Releasing New Album
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 04.18.2014
Plus a reissue of Purple Rain and more...
It was one of the most well-known contract disputes in modern music. Prince's war with Warner Bros. Records in 1996 was one of those rare disputes that became household news, popularized by the fact that the pop music icon changes his professional name to that of an unpronounceable symbol and called himself the label's slave. And now, eighteen years later, it's over. A press release was made through Warner Bros. announcing that Prince has reconciled with the label and has signed a deal that returns ownership of his catalog to him and will see him release a new album.
The announcement revealed that Prince has regained ownership of his music released through Warner Bros, which ran from his 1978 debut LP For You through 1996's Chaos and Disorder and spans nineteen albums. The albums will continue to be licensed through Warner Bros. and as part of the deal, Purple Rain will receive a remastered deluxe reissue as part of its thirtieth anniversary this year. Other re-releases are planed as well. Financial terms and length of the licensing deal were not disclosed.
Prince said in a statement, "A brand-new studio album is on the way and both Warner Bros Records and Eye (sic) are quite pleased with the results of the negotiations and look forward to a fruitful working relationship."
This deal could represent a major event in terms of musical copyright; there's a lot of legalese in this but the long and short of it is that the Copyright Revision Act of 1976 took effect in 1978, the year that For You came out. it granted the ability to terminate master recording copyright after 35 years, which of course by math came into play last year. Because works created under work-for-hire contracts, it was believed that a series of lawsuits would be spring up challenging the legality of the work-for-hire clause in standard recording contracts. It was believed that in some instances the labels may negotiate to retain control of the artist's catalog in some manner, which is of course what has happened here.