Prince’s estate can’t move forward with a copyright case in his home state of Minnesota against a law firm that advised a former sound engineer to publish the late rock star’s unreleased recordings, the District of Minnesota ruled Feb. 22.
Although some of the firm’s actions implicated Minnesota, they weren’t sufficient to establish minimal contacts for personal jurisdiction in the state, the court ruled.
George Ian Boxill worked as a sound engineer for Prince in 2006. After Prince’s death, Boxill created Deliverance LLC with a law firm and publishing company to market and release recordings from the 2006 sessions. Prince’s estate, represented by Paisley Park Enterprises, Inc., says a confidentiality agreement with Boxill establishes that Prince solely owned the recordings.
Brown & Rosen LLC drafted a letter to Deliverance saying it believed Boxill had rights to the recordings as a joint owner. Paisley says that B&R wrongly allowed Deliverance to use the opinion letter to convince third parties to advertise and distribute the recordings after it knew of the confidentiality agreement.
Paisley argued that Minnesota had personal jurisdiction over B&R because it knew the recordings would be sold in Minnesota, it negotiated with Prince’s Minnesota estate, and it advised Deliverance about a contract with a Minnesota party.
The court ruled that Minnesota didn’t have jurisdiction over B&R. B&R didn’t directly sell the music, isn’t a MInnesota firm, and didn’t advise Minnesota clients, the court said.
“Absent other contacts, B&R’s emails, phone calls, and opinion letter are not so purposefully directed to Minnesota to justify this Court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction,” the court said.
The court also rejected Paisley’s assertion that B&R committed an intentional tort directed at Minnesota by “encouraging unlawful distribution” when it allowed the opinion letter’s circulation.
The court additionally dismissed Paisley’s contract interference claim against B&R but found sufficient allegations to support Paisley’s claim of state tortious interference with prospective economic advantage.
Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright wrote the opinion.
Fredriskon & Byron PA represented Paisley. Meagher & Geer P.L.L.P. represented B&R.
The case is Paisley Park Enters. v. Boxill, D. Minn., No. 17-cv-1212, 2/22/19.