Jason Derulo Accusations, Cardi B Ruling & More Music Legal News – Billboard
Written by GRB on 10/10/2023
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: Two new misconduct lawsuits, one against publishing exec Kenny MacPherson and another against R&B star Jason Derulo; a ruling for Cardi B that a gossip blogger can’t use bankruptcy to escape a huge defamation judgment; a new Supreme Court case that’s “vitally important to the music industry”; and more.
Want to get The Legal Beat newsletter in your email inbox every Tuesday? Subscribe here for free.
THE BIG STORY: Music #MeToo
The music industry was rocked last week by two new sexual misconduct lawsuits: one against a powerful publishing executive and another against a chart-topping R&B star.
In a complaint filed Wednesday, a woman named Sara Lewis leveled accusations of sexual assault and harassment against Kenny MacPherson, the CEO of Hipgnosis Songs Fund’s publishing unit. Lewis claimed she “endured an onslaught of unwanted sexual advances” from MacPherson while she worked as an A&R at Chrysalis Music during the mid-2000s when he served as the company’s president.
Through an attorney, MacPherson “vehemently” denied the allegations, stressing that the “unverified” claims stemmed from nearly two decades in the past. But Hipgnosis quickly placed him on leave of absence pending an internal investigation: “Hipgnosis Songs Fund has a policy of zero-tolerance to harassment or abuse,” a company spokesperson said.
A day later, a woman named Emaza Gibson accused singer Jason Derulo of repeatedly sexually harassing her, then dropping her from a deal with his Atlantic Records imprint Future History after she rebuffed his advances. He strongly denied the claims, calling them “completely false and hurtful.”
Nearly six years on from the start of the #MeToo movement, the music industry is experiencing a new wave of such accusations. Two women filed lawsuits late last year against Atlantic Records over sexual assault allegations against late co-founder Ahmet Ertegun; country star Jimmie Allen was hit with two sexual assault lawsuits in May; and Backstreet Boys member Nick Carter has been sued by three different women who claim he sexually assaulted them as minors in the 2000s.
Other top stories this week…
BETTER HAVE MY MONEY – Two years after Cardi B won a nearly $4 million defamation verdict against a YouTube host named Tasha K over her salacious lies about drug use, STDs and prostitution, a federal judge ruled that the gossip blogger could not use Chapter 11 bankruptcy to avoid paying most of the judgment.
TRANSATLANTIC CUSTODY SETTLEMENT – Lawyers for Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner, currently locked in a very public divorce, said the former couple was close to an “amicable resolution” to end Turner’s unusual federal lawsuit, which cited international treaties on child abduction to demand the return of the couple’s two young daughters to her native England.
ELECTRIC ZOO SUITS MOUNT – A month after this year’s chaotic iteration of the Electric Zoo festival in New York, a group of ticket buyers filed a class action over what they called an “absolute fiasco.” The lawsuit is at least the fourth such lawsuit filed against Brooklyn promoter Avant Gardner, the organizer of the popular dance music event.
FILE THE SUIT, PAY THE PRICE? – Sam Smith and Normani demanded to be reimbursed for money they spent defeating a failed copyright lawsuit that accused them of ripping off their 2019 hit, “Dancing With a Stranger,” from an earlier song. The final legal bill? A whopping $732,202.
MUSIC BIZ HEADS TO SCOTUS – The U.S. Supreme Court granted a petition for certiorari filed by Warner Music Group, agreeing to tackle a case over copyright damages that labels and publishers have called “vitally important to the music industry.” The case is complicated, so go read our deep-dive explainer here.
LADY GAGA DOGNAPPING CASE – A Los Angeles judge once again ruled that Lady Gaga was not obligated to pay a $500,000 reward for the return of her stolen French bulldogs to the very same woman who was criminally charged over the incident. Echoing an earlier ruling, the judge said the woman had “unclean hands” that prevented her from profiting from her actions.
‘MY HUMPS’ v. ‘MY POOPS’ – Abruptly ending what could have been a major battle over copyright fair use, BMG Rights Management reached a settlement to end a copyright lawsuit against toymaker MGA Entertainment over “My Poops” — a scatological parody song set to the tune of The Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps.”
TUPAC MURDER CASE UPDATE – Duane “Keffe D” Davis, the man who prosecutors say masterminded the 1996 shooting death of Tupac Shakur in Las Vegas, made his first court appearance. Davis, who had been a long-known suspect in the case and publicly admitted his role in the killing in a tell-all memoir, was indicted late last month on one count of murder with a deadly weapon.