Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Michael Jackson Estate, Taylor Swift Quotes, AI Law & More Legal News

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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 legal battle between Michael Jackson’s mother and his estate over a massive deal; a ruling on Metallica’s COVID lawsuit that quotes Taylor Swift; a new first-of-its-kind statute in Tennessee aimed at AI-generated deepfakes; and much more.

THE BIG STORY: Jackson Family Feud

Fifteen years after Michael Jackson’s death, his mother is locked in an increasingly acrimonious legal battle with his estate – and, as of last week, with her own grandson, too.

The trouble started last year, when Katherine Jackson filed legal objections to an unspecified transaction that had been proposed by the estate. The disputed deal wasn’t explicitly named in filings, but it appears to be the estimated $600 million catalog deal with Sony Music that was first reported by Billboard last month. A judge rejected those complaints in April 2023, but Katherine is now battling to overturn that ruling at a California appeals court.

Why the sudden flashpoint last week? Because Katherine is asking the estate to pay for the legal bills she’s incurred while litigating her objections – a request that drew sharp rebukes.

One came from Michael’s son, Bigi Jackson, who says that Katherine’s ongoing objections to the Sony deal are a “waste” of time and that it would be “unfair” to force him and his siblings to foot the bill for them. Another came from estate executors John Branca and John McClain, who say the estate has already paid the elder Jackson more than $55 million since Michael’s death and shouldn’t have to pay for her “frivolous” appeal.

Go read our full stories on Bigi’s objections and the executors’ pushback, and stay tuned for how it all shakes out…

Other top stories this week…

METALLICA, COVID AND… TAYLOR? – Judges can be Swifties, too. In an unusual ruling that quoted from Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well,” a California appeals court rejected a lawsuit filed by the band Metallica that demanded its insurance company pay for more than $3 million in losses stemming from concerts that were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The case is one of numerous lawsuits, many of them unsuccessful, that have aimed at forcing insurance companies to pay for losses caused by pandemic cancellations.

DIDDY’S HOUSES RAIDED – Law enforcement agents reportedly searched homes owned by Sean “Diddy” Combs in Los Angeles and Miami as part of an ongoing sex trafficking investigation led by federal prosecutors in New York. The federal raids came amid a flurry of civil sexual abuse lawsuits against the hip-hop mogul – allegations Combs has strongly denied. It’s not clear whether the rapper himself is the target of the federal investigation.

NEW AI VOICE STATUTE – Tennessee enacted first-in-the-nation legislation aimed at protecting musical artists and other individuals from so-called deep fakes that are generated by artificial intelligence – an issue that’s been top of mind for the industry since a fake Drake song went viral last year. The new law – the Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security, or ELVIS, Act – updates the state’s existing rules on image and likeness rights, explicitly including a person’s voice for the first time.

PYRRHI© VICTORY? – Six months after Sam Smith and Normani beat a copyright lawsuit claiming they had stolen elements of their 2019 hit “Dancing With a Stranger” from an earlier track, a federal judge refused to force their accuser to reimburse the legal fees they spent litigating the case — a bill the stars say exceeded $700,000. While unsuccessful, the judge ruled that the case was “neither frivolous nor objectively unreasonable.”

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