Young Thug’s Never-Ending Trial, SCOTUS Copyright Ruling, Childish Gambino 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: A deep dive into the Young Thug’s trial in Atlanta as the gang case passes the two-year mark with no clear end in sight; a Supreme Court ruling in a copyright case filed against Warner Music over a Flo Rida song; Donald Glover beats a lawsuit claiming he stole his chart-topping “This Is America”; and much more.

THE BIG STORY: Why Is Young Thug’s Trial Taking So Long?

It’s been two years since Young Thug was indicted on accusations of running a violent street gang that terrorized Atlanta. It’s been well over a year since jury selection started, and more than five months since the trial got underway in earnest. The proceedings are expected to last into 2025, with roughly 100 more states witnesses still to testify. And all the while, Young Thug has sat in jail.

Pitting prosecutors from America’s rap capital against one of hip-hop’s most influential artists, the Young Thug case was always an extraordinary story – not least because it represented a flashpoint in a decades-long debate over the use of rap music in criminal trials. But as the case drags on for years, critics like Kevin Liles, the CEO of Warner Music Group’s 300 Entertainment, say the case has metastasized into something else.

“From the absence of bond to the extraordinary weaponization of creative expression, this case has always been an outrage,” Liles tells Billboard. “Now as the longest trial in Georgia history and with no end in sight, it’s also become a farce.”

For the full story, go read Jewel Wicker’s excellent deep dive into the Young Thug case – including how we got here, what experts think about the case, and what comes next.

Other top stories this week…

SCOTUS COPYRIGHT RULING – The U.S. Supreme Court sided with a Florida music producer in a legal battle against Warner Music over a song by the rapper Flo Rida, ruling that copyright owners can recover money reaching back decades into the past. The decision in the case, which music companies had called “exceptionally important,” could encourage more accusers to try their hand at litigation over years-old songs.

THIS ISN’T INFRINGEMENT – A federal appeals court affirmed a ruling last year dismissing a lawsuit that accused Donald Glover of ripping off his chart-topping Childish Gambino hit “This Is America” from an earlier song. A rapper named Kidd Wes had claimed that Glover’s 2018 Grammy winner was “practically identical” to a 2016 track called “Made In America,” but a lower court ruled last March that the two tracks were “entirely different.”

50 CENT DEFAMATION CASE – The rapper filed a libel lawsuit against his ex Daphne Joy over her accusations that he raped and physically abused her, calling them a “calculated attack” of false allegations designed to destroy his reputation. The rapper claimed that Joy made her statements as retaliation after the he  moved to take custody of their son – a step he claims he took in the wake of a lawsuit against Sean “Diddy” Combs that accused Joy of being a “sex worker.”

PORTNOW RAPE CASE DROPPED – An unnamed woman who filed a lawsuit accusing former Recording Academy boss Neil Portnow of rape abruptly moved to drop her case, citing a concern that her real name will be revealed. The move came amid a split with her own lawyers, who told the judge they would withdraw from the case due to “irreconcilable differences” with Portnow’s accuser.

ASTROWORLD TRIAL UPDATE – Settlements have been reached in nine of the 10 wrongful death lawsuits filed against Travis Scott, Live Nation and others over the deadly crowd surge at the 2021 Astroworld music festival, lawyers revealed at a court hearing last week, including the case that had been set to go to trial this month. The settlements leave pending one wrongful death suit to be tried – the one filed by the family of 9-year-old Ezra Blount – as well as hundreds of lawsuits filed by people who were allegedly injured.

DIDDY WANTS CASE TOSSED – Sean “Diddy” Combs asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that he and two co-defendants raped a 17-year-old girl in a New York recording studio in 2003 — one of several abuse cases the rapper is currently facing. Attorneys for Combs argued that it was a “false and hideous claim” that was filed too late under the law.

BRIAN WILSON CONSERVATORSHIP – A Los Angeles judge ruled Beach Boys founder and music luminary Brian Wilson should be placed under a conservatorship to manage his personal and medical decisions because of what his doctor calls a “major neurocognitive disorder.” The ruling, which came on a petition filed by Wilson’s family, appointed two longtime Wilson representatives, publicist Jean Sievers and manager LeeAnn Hard, as his conservators.

NBA YOUNGBOY DRUG CHARGES – A judge in Utah set a $100,000 bond for rapper NBA YoungBoy, who faces dozens of new charges involving allegations that he orchestrated a fraudulent prescription operation while he lived under house arrest as he awaited trial on separate federal gun charges.

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