Legal battles overshadow announcement of new Prince EP

The cover art for Deliverance, to be released Friday, April 21.

A lawsuit over the Prince vault got a new sense of urgency this week after longtime collaborator and producer George Ian Boxill announced a new, six-song EP set to drop Friday in honor of the one-year anniversary of the star's death.

Paisley Park and the Prince estate filed a lawsuit last Friday against Boxill in Carver County Court, asking for the return of all Prince recordings in his possession and a permanent injunction against releasing any of Prince's music. The estate then filed Tuesday to move the proceedings from Carver County to the U.S. District Court of Minnesota because Boxill is a legal resident of California, shortly preceding a press release officially announcing the EP.

Deliverance also appeared unexpectedly on iTunes and Apple Music shortly after the lawsuit was filed Tuesday, with the title track already up and the rest of the EP available for preorder. Wednesday, however, the music had been scrubbed from the site. A version still remains up on popular music site Soundcloud:

The estate confirmed the authenticity of the tracks in the court documents, saying the recordings are from 2006-'08--a period when Prince was operating as an independent artist. Boxill says the same in his statement announcing the EP, though Paisley Park contends that Boxill had signed his confidentiality agreement in 2004, voiding any claim of ownership over the tracks. 

Prince's estate released the following statement to Rolling Stone Wednesday:

Like the other engineers that had the opportunity to work with Prince, Mr. Boxill signed an agreement, under which he agreed (1) all recordings that he worked on with Prince would remain Prince’s sole and exclusive property; (2) he would not use any recordings or property in any way whatsoever; and (3) he would return any such recordings or property to Prince immediately upon request. Mr. Boxill did not comply with his agreement. Instead, Mr. Boxill maintained copies of certain tracks, waited until after Prince’s tragic death, and is now attempting to release tracks without the authorization of the Estate and in violation of the agreement and applicable law.

A hearing involving the case was held Wednesday in St. Paul, though Judge Wilhelmina Wright adjourned the hearing without making a decision, according to the district court website. 

It's not entirely clear whether she will step in to stop Friday's planned release, but the financial stakes are predictably high: Paisley Park estimates the value of these recordings to be more than $75,000.

Boxill intends to release Deliverance through Rogue Music Alliance, which bills itself as "label-like"--allowing artists to release music through the company but never owning the actual creative property. 

The original plan, outlined in Boxill's press release, was to have the majority of Deliverance's sales go to Prince's estate, saying that he would have wanted to circumvent traditional music labels. 

"Prince once told me that he would go to bed every night thinking of ways to bypass major labels and get his music directly to the public. When considering how to release this important work, we decided to go independent because that's what Prince would have wanted."

This is one of the first of what is sure to be many lawsuits over the late artist's music and legacy after he died suddenly last April without a will. 


A trove of documents unsealed Monday outlined the police investigation into the star's unexpected fentanyl overdose, revealing that doctors had prescribed opioids and other drugs to an alias and also to Prince's longtime friend and bodyguard Kirk Johnson. 

The police findings, however, did not reveal how Prince got the illegal fentanyl that killed him. The case is still under investigation.