Paisley Park Enterprises and Prince’s estate have sued a European operation for what they allege is an extensive bootlegging scheme that has distributed at least 100 of his songs around the world, including the music legend’s final concert in Atlanta a week before he died.
The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, alleges that defendants living and operating in France, Belgium and the Netherlands have formed “an interrelated group of bootleggers who are ... selling, distributing and trafficking in bootlegs of unreleased studio recordings of Prince music and unauthorized recordings of live Prince performances.”
The suit alleging copyright infringement involving Prince’s songs, likeness and other iconic imagery seeks a court injunction “to put a stop to defendants’ illicit operation” and monetary damages.
The suit is asking for $2 million “for each and every use of the Prince Trademarks” by the defendants, a total that would mean many millions in compensation if the suit prevails, given that there have been 18 unauthorized releases of compilations for more than two years and running.
The primary defendant is listed as Eric Ziani, who lives in France and is described in the suit as “a brazen bootlegger” who is at the center of the operation.
Photos from Google maps showing Ziani’s address in Lyon reveal an adjacent address with the word “bootlegger” on the door, according to the lawsuit.
Other defendants include Marcel Peters, of the Netherlands, allegedly a seller of the recordings; Piet Van Ryckeghem, of Belgium, and another alleged seller; and Frederic Bianco, of France, a principal behind the bootleg label Eye Records, which the suit says was used to distribute the music.
There are also four unidentified “Does” also being sued as suspected bootleggers.
Messages were left with several of the defendants Tuesday seeking the response to the allegations. Court records show no response yet filed in court by the defendants.
The 53-page suit includes photos and web page screen grabs listing Prince’s music for sale in three compilation releases of unreleased studio records that include such hits as “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry, “U Got the Look” and “Cream.”
Other unauthorized releases contain live performances by Prince, including on April 14, 2016, in Atlanta, his final concert on his Piano a Microphone” tour before the 57-year-old’s death seven days after at his Chanhassen compound from an overdose of the powerful painkiller fentanyl.
The double CD, released the same year as his death, has a back cover touting this offering as being “Prince in his last-ever show, and one of the discs includes the words “1958-ETERNITY.”
A two-year criminal investigation into the overdose death of Prince closed this past spring with no charges being filed because local, state and federal investigators were unable to determine who provided Prince with the massive dose of fentanyl — disguised as counterfeit prescription medication — that killed him.
The suit’s plaintiffs made multiple purchases and received some of the disputed recordings through newlovesigne.com, which is listed as a defendant. The website also offers free downloads of Prince songs.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482