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Lizzo Strikes Back At ‘Fabricated’ Lawsuit – Plus AI Copyright, Kobalt Case & More Legal News

This is The Legal Beat, a weekly newsletter about music law from Billboard Pro, offering you a one-stop cheat sheet of big new cases, important rulings and all the fun stuff in between.

This week: Lizzo fights back against sexual harassment allegations with the help of a famous lawyer and a creative legal argument; a federal court issues an early ruling in an important copyright lawsuit over artificial intelligence; Kobalt is hit with a lawsuit alleging misconduct by one of the company’s former executives; and much more.

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THE BIG STORY: Lizzo Hits Back With … Free Speech?

Three months after Lizzo and her touring company were accused of subjecting three of her backup dancers to sexual harassment, religious and racial discrimination and weight-shaming, her lawyers filed their first substantive response – and they didn’t hold back.

“Salacious and specious lawsuit.” “They have an axe to grind.” “A pattern of gross misconduct and failure to perform their job up to par.” “Fabricated sob story.” “Plaintiffs are not victims.” “They are opportunists.”

“Plaintiffs had it all and they blew it,” Lizzo’s lawyers wrote. “Instead of taking any accountability for their own actions, plaintiffs filed this lawsuit against defendants out of spite and in pursuit of media attention, public sympathy and a quick payday with minimal effort.”

That’s not exactly dry legalese, but it’s par-for-the-course in a lawsuit that has already featured its fair share of blunt language from the other side. And it’s hardly surprising given that it came from Martin Singer – an infamously tough celebrity lawyer once described by the Los Angeles Times as “Hollywood’s favorite legal hit man.”

While Singer’s quotes made the headlines, it was his legal argument that caught my attention.

Rather than a normal motion to dismiss the case, Lizzo’s motion cited California’s so-called anti-SLAPP statute — a special type of law enacted in states around the country that makes it easier to end meritless lawsuits that threaten free speech (known as “strategic lawsuits against public participation”). Anti-SLAPP laws allow for such cases to be tossed out more quickly, and they sometimes require a plaintiff to repay the legal bills incurred by a defendant.

Anti-SLAPP motions are filed every day, but it’s pretty unusual to see one aimed at dismissing a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit filed by former employees against their employer. They’re more common in precisely the opposite scenario: filed by an individual who claims that they’re being unfairly sued by a powerful person to silence accusations of abuse or other wrongdoing.

But in Friday’s motion, Singer and Lizzo’s other lawyers argued that California’s anti-SLAPP law could also apply to the current case because of the creative nature of the work in question. They called the case “a brazen attempt to silence defendants’ creative voices and weaponize their creative expression against them.”

Will that argument hold up in court? Stay tuned…

Go read the full story about Lizzo’s defense, including access to the actual legal documents filed in court.

Other top stories this week…

RULING IN AI COPYRIGHT CASE – A federal judge issued an early-stage ruling in a copyright class action filed by artists against artificial intelligence (AI) firm Stability AI — one of several important lawsuits filed against AI companies over how they use copyrighted content. Though he criticized the case and dismissed many of its claims, the judge allowed it to move toward trial on its central, all-important question: Whether it’s illegal to train AI models by using copyrighted content.

HALLOWEEN SPECIAL – To celebrate today’s spooky holiday, Billboard turned back the clock all the way to 1988, when the studio behind “A Nightmare on Elm Street” sued Will Smith over a Fresh Prince song and music video that made repeated references to Freddy Kreuger. To get the complete bizarre history of the case, go read our story here.

KOBALT FACES CASE OVER EX-EXEC – A female songwriter filed a lawsuit against Kobalt Music Group and former company executive Sam Taylor over allegations that he leveraged his position of power to demand sex from her – and that the company “ignored” and “gaslit” women who complained about him. The case came a year after Billboard’s Elias Leight first reported those allegations. Taylor did not return a request for comment; Kobalt has called the allegations against the company baseless, saying its employees never “condoned or aided any alleged wrongdoing.”

MF DOOM ESTATE BATTLE – The widow of late hip-hop legend MF Doom filed a lawsuit claiming the rapper’s former collaborator Egon stole dozens of the rapper’s notebooks that were used to write down many of his beloved songs. The case claims that Egon took possession of the files as Doom spent a decade in his native England due to visa issues, where he remained until his death in 2020. Egon’s lawyers called the allegations “frivolous and untrue.”

DJ ENVY FRAUD SCANDAL UPDATECesar Pina, a celebrity house-flipper who was charged earlier this month with running a “Ponzi-like investment fraud scheme,” said publicly last week that New York City radio host DJ Envy had “nothing to do” with the real estate deals in question. Critics have argued that Envy, who hosts the popular hip-hop radio show The Breakfast Club, played a key role in Pina’s alleged fraud by promoting him on the air.

UTOPIA SUED AGAIN OVER FAILED DEAL – Utopia Music was hit with another lawsuit over an aborted $26.5 million deal to buy a U.S. music technology company called SourceAudio, this time over allegations that the company violated a $400,000 settlement that aimed to end the dispute. The allegations came after a year of repeated layoffs and restructuring at the Swiss-based music tech company.

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