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: Mariah Carey is hit with a copyright lawsuit over “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” a federal appeals court issues a first-of-its-kind ruling on copyright protections for dance routines, Taylor Swift gets named-dropped at the Supreme Court and much more.
THE BIG STORY: Mariah Sued Over Iconic Christmas Track (Again)
Just in time for the holidays, Mariah Carey is facing rebooted allegations that she ripped off her perennially chart-topping “All I Want for Christmas Is You” from an earlier song of the same name.
Vince Vance (real name Andy Stone) first sued Carey last summer, claiming her 1994 holiday blockbuster infringed the copyrights to a 1989 song of the exact same name recorded by his Vince Vance and the Valiants. But the bare-bones complaint included few details about the alleged infringement, and the case was quickly dropped a few months later.
Now Stone is back — both with new lawyers and with a more fleshed-out lawsuit.
Those new attorneys hail from Gerard Fox Law, the same firm that represented two songwriters in their lawsuit accusing Taylor Swift of stealing the lyrics to “Shake It Off” from 3LW’s “Playas Gon’ Play,” which also featured lyrics about “playas” and “haters.” After five years of litigation against the biggest pop star in the world, including a successful trip to the Ninth Circuit, Stone has certainly found himself battle-tested plaintiff lawyers to go after Carey.
And where the original complaint was short on specifics, the new one is chock-full of them, including that she made up the story of how she wrote the song and that her own co-writer, Walter Afanasieff, has disputed that story.
“Carey has without licensing, palmed off these works with her incredulous origin story, as if those works were her own,” Vance’s new lawyers wrote in the refiled complaint. “Her hubris knowing no bounds, even her co-credited songwriter doesn’t believe the story she has spun. This is simply a case of actionable infringement.”
Go read our entire story here, including the full complaint filed against Carey.
Other top stories this week…
CHOREOGRAPHY COPYRIGHTS — The Ninth Circuit issued a first-of-its-kind ruling on copyright protections for dance routines, reviving a case that accuses Fortnite creator Epic Games of stealing copyrighted moves from choreographer Kyle Hanagami, who’s worked with BTS, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Bieber and Britney Spears. The decision came after years of efforts by other dancers to secure better ownership of their routines, including Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion choreographer JaQuel Knight, as detailed by Rebecca Milzoff in her excellent 2020 Billboard cover story.
SCOTUS SWIFTIES? — Capping a year in which Taylor Swift’s name has dropped on Capitol Hill, at the US Department of Justice and on NFL broadcasts, it came up last week during Supreme Court arguments in a major case over social media and the First Amendment, as part of legal hypothetical raised by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.
YSL CASE SET FOR TRIAL — After months of delays, a jury was finally seated in the massive criminal case against Young Thug and other alleged members of an Atlanta street gang, clearing the way for a trial to begin later in November. But will it feature rap lyrics as evidence? Stay tuned this week…
STEVEN TYLER ACCUSED AGAIN — The Aerosmith frontman was hit with a second lawsuit accusing him of sexually assaulting a minor decades ago, this time by a woman who says he forcibly kissed and groped her in New York in 1975 when she was just 17.
AI FAIR USE ARGUMENT — Artificial intelligence firm Anthropic PBC told the U.S. Copyright Office this week that the massive scraping of copyrighted materials to train AI models ought to be considered “quintessentially lawful” — perhaps offering a preview of arguments the company will make in its upcoming legal battle with Universal Music Group over those very same issues.
TICKET BOT CRACKDOWN — As reported by Billboard’s Dave Brooks, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) announced that she would roll out new legislation to beef up the BOTS ACT — a rarely enforced 2016 law that outlawed the use of bots to attack ticket sales and jump the line to buy tickets ahead of consumers. If passed, the amendment will create a new forum for online ticket sellers to report successful bot attacks to the Federal Trade Commission, which is tasked with enforcing the statute.
CONTRACT RESTRICTIONS (TAYLOR’S VERSION) — Will trying to prevent the next “Taylor’s Version” backfire on record labels? Following up on Steve Knopper’s reporting on new contractual restrictions pushed by labels in the wake of Taylor Swift’s massively successful rerecording campaign, music attorney Chris Castle argues that record companies might want to think twice.
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