Music

Cher Copyright Win, Bad Bunny Lawsuit, The-Dream Abuse Case & More Top Music Law 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: Cher wins a closely-watched termination battle against Sonny Bono’s widow; the massive copyright lawsuit against Bad Bunny and other reggaeton stars moves forward; R&B hitmaker The-Dream is hit with a sexual abuse lawsuit; and much more.

THE BIG STORY: Copyrights & Divorces & Cher, Oh My!

Cher emerged victorious last week in a long-running legal battle with Sonny Bono’s widow that centered on the messy intersection between federal copyrights and state-level divorce law.

The lawsuit was the industry’s latest test of copyright law’s “termination right,” which gives creators and heirs the power to reclaim control of works decades after they sold them away. Created by Congress in the 1970s, termination was designed to level the playing field for creators who faced an “unequal bargaining position” with big companies and sold their rights for cheap.

Over the past few years, record labels have faced class actions from artists seeking to win back their masters; musicians have pushed for a rule change to make sure songwriters can actually start collecting streaming royalties after they take back their copyrights; and individual artists like Dwight Yoakam, 2 Live Crew and KC & the Sunshine Band have all fought their own lawsuits over termination.

Cher’s case posed new and difficult questions. After using termination to take back control of Sonny’s copyrights, Mary Bono argued that she was no longer required to honor Sonny and Cher’s 1978 divorce settlement, which gave the superstar a permanent 50% cut of the publishing revenue from songs written before the couple split up.

But in a ruling on Wednesday (May 29), Judge John A. Kronstadt sided with Cher, ruling that she must continue to receive publishing royalties for her catalog of songs created with Sonny, including “I Got You Babe,” “The Beat Goes On” and “Baby Don’t Go.”

For more, go read our entire breakdown of the ruling, including access to the judge’s full written decision.

Other top stories this week…

REGGAETON CASE GOES ON – A federal judge ruled that a sprawling copyright lawsuit can move forward with accusations that nearly 2,000 reggaeton songs — including hits by Bad Bunny, Karol G and dozens of others — all infringed a single 1989 song called  “Fish Market” that allegedly spawned the so-called “dem bow” rhythm. The stars had argued that the lawsuit aimed to “monopolize practically the entire reggaetón musical genre,” but a judge said it was too early to make that argument — and that he wasn’t particularly receptive to it anyhow.

“A PROLONGED NIGHTMARE” The-Dream, a singer and producer who has worked with Beyoncé, Rihanna and others, was hit with a sex trafficking lawsuit that claims he subjected a young songwriter named Chanaaz Mangroe to an “abusive, violent, and manipulative relationship” that included an alleged incident of rape. The lawsuit claims the producer (Terius Gesteelde-Diamant) used promises of career advancement to lure a “young and vulnerable artist” into “a prolonged nightmare” filled with “violent sexual acts.”

MEGAN THEE STALLION HITS BACK – The superstar rapper fired back at a lawsuit that claims she forced a cameraman named Emilio Garcia to watch her have sex with a woman inside a moving vehicle, filing a scathing first response that called those claims “false and fabricated” and labeled her accuser a “con artist.”

MADONNA SUED AGAIN – The Queen of Pop was hit with yet another class action over delayed concerts on her Celebration Tour, this time from a ticket buyer who also claims that the show — which allegedly featured “topless women” who were “engaging in simulated sexual acts” — amounted to a form of “pornography.”

STUBHUB JURY VERDICT – StubHub must pay more than $16 million in legal damages after a jury decided that the ticketing giant screwed over a smaller company called Spotlight Ticket Management — first by failing to pay millions in commissions, then by torpedoing the startup’s lucrative concierge partnership with American Express.

KANYE HARASSMENT SUITKanye West was sued by a former assistant named Lauren Pisciotta over allegations of sexual harassment and wrongful termination. In a lawsuit that came with pages of graphic texts that the rapper allegedly sent to her, Pisciotta’s attorneys claim she faced a “systematic” onslaught of “unlawful harassment” during her year of working for Ye.

SPOTIFY SUED OVER “CAR THING” – A group of angry consumers filed a class action against Spotify over its recent decision to kill its short-lived “Car Thing” device, claiming that the streaming company’s move left them “with nothing more than a paperweight that cost between $50 and $100”.

AEG CEO TALKS LIVE NATION CASE – In the wake of the DOJ’s antitrust lawsuit against Live Nation, AEG chairman/CEO Jay Marciano celebrated the case against its chief rival, saying it will bring “sweeping changes” to the live music industry. In an internal memo, Marciano said he believes that Live Nation “uses its monopoly power to impose its will on the live entertainment business.”

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