Music

Tupac Estate v. Drake, Megan Thee Stallion Lawsuit, Britney Spears Settlement & 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: Tupac’s estate threatens to sue Drake over his use of the late rapper’s voice; Megan Thee Stallion faces a lawsuit over eye-popping allegations from her former cameraman; Britney Spears settles her dispute with her father; and much more.

THE BIG STORY: Drake, Tupac & An AI Showdown

The debate over unauthorized voice cloning burst into the open last week when Tupac Shakur’s estate threatened to sue Drake over a recent diss track against Kendrick Lamar that featured an AI-generated version of the late rapper’s voice.

In a cease-and-desist letter first reported by Billboard, litigator Howard King told Drake that the Shakur estate was “deeply dismayed and disappointed” by the rapper’s use of Tupac’s voice in his “Taylor Made Freestyle.” The letter warned Drake to confirm in less than 24 hours that he would pull the track down or the estate would “pursue all of its legal remedies” against him.

“Not only is the record a flagrant violation of Tupac’s publicity and the estate’s legal rights, it is also a blatant abuse of the legacy of one of the greatest hip-hop artists of all time. The Estate would never have given its approval for this use.”

AI-powered voice cloning has been top of mind for the music industry since last spring when an unknown artist released a track called “Heart On My Sleeve” that featured — ironically — fake verses from Drake’s voice. As such fake vocals have continued to proliferate on the internet, industry groups, legal experts and lawmakers have wrangled over how best to crack down on them.

With last week’s showdown, that debate jumped from hypothetical to reality. The Tupac estate laid out actual legal arguments for why it believed Drake’s use of the late rapper’s voice violated the law. And those arguments were apparently persuasive: Within 24 hours, Drake began to pull his song from the internet.

For more details on the dispute, go read our full story here.

Other top stories this week…

MEGAN THEE STALLION SUED – The rapper and Roc Nation were hit with a lawsuit from a cameraman named Emilio Garcia who claims he was forced to watch Megan have sex with a woman inside a moving vehicle while she was on tour in Spain. The lawsuit, which claims he was subjected to a hostile workplace, was filed by the same attorneys who sued Lizzo last year over similar employment law.

BRITNEY SETTLES WITH FATHER Britney Spears settled her long-running legal dispute with her father, Jamie Spears, that arose following the termination of the pop star’s 13-year conservatorship in 2021. Attorneys for Britney had accused Jamie of misconduct during the years he served as his daughter’s conservator, a charge he adamantly denied. The terms of last week’s agreement were not made public.

TRAVIS SCOTT MUST FACE TRIAL – A Houston judge denied a motion from Travis Scott to be dismissed from the sprawling litigation over the 2021 disaster at the Astroworld music festival, leaving him to face a closely-watched jury trial next month. Scott’s attorneys had argued that the star could not be held legally liable since safety and security at live events is “not the job of performing artists.” But the judge overseeing the case denied that motion without written explanation.

ASTROWORLD TRIAL LIVESTREAM? Also in the Astroworld litigation, plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that the upcoming trial — a pivotal first test for hundreds of other lawsuits filed by alleged victims over the disaster — should be broadcast live to the public. “The devastating scale of the events at Astroworld, combined with the involvement of high-profile defendants, has generated significant national attention and a legitimate public demand for transparency and accountability,” the lawyers wrote.

BALLERINI HACKING CASE – Just a week after Kelsea Ballerini sued a former fan named Bo Ewing over accusations that he hacked her and leaked her unreleased album, his attorneys reached a deal with her legal team in which he agreed not to share her songs with anyone else — and to name any people he’s already sent them to. “Defendant shall, within thirty days of entry of this order, provide plaintiffs with the names and contact information for all people to whom defendant disseminated the recordings,” the agreement read.

R. KELLY CONVICTIONS AFFIRMED – A federal appeals court upheld R. Kelly’s 2022 convictions in Chicago on child pornography and enticement charges, rejecting his argument that the case against him was filed too late. The court said that Kelly was convicted by “an even-handed jury” and that “no statute of limitations saves him.” His attorney vowed a trip to the U.S. Supreme Court, though such appeals face long odds.

DIDDY RESPONDS TO SUIT – Lawyers for Sean “Diddy” Combs pushed back against a sexual assault lawsuit filed by a woman named Joi Dickerson-Neal, arguing that he should not face claims under statutes that did not exist when the alleged incidents occurred in 1991. His attorneys want the claims — such as revenge porn and human trafficking — to be dismissed from the broader case, which claims that Combs drugged, assaulted and surreptitiously filmed Dickerson-Neal when she was 19 years old.

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