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Lizzo Harassment Lawsuit, Taylor Swift Deepfakes, Earth Wind & Fire Case & More Top Legal News

Lizzo Harassment Lawsuit, Taylor Swift Deepfakes, Earth Wind & Fire Case & More Top 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 judge denies Lizzo’s request to dismiss a bombshell harassment lawsuit filed by her backup dancers; an ugly flood of Taylor Swift deepfakes highlights a growing problem; an update on Earth Wind & Fire’s trademark lawsuit against a tribute band; and much more.

THE BIG STORY: Lizzo Harassment Case Moves Forward

Two days before Lizzo showed up to present an award at the Grammys on Sunday night, a Los Angeles judge ruled that the singer’s legal problems would not be going away any time soon.

In a decision Friday, Judge Mark H. Epstein denied Lizzo’s motion to toss out a bombshell sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit, filed by three of her former backup dancers last year. Though he dismissed certain accusations – including a particularly loaded charge that Lizzo fat-shamed one of her dancers – the judge ruled that the remainder of the case could go forward.

Related

Lizzo Sexual Harassment Case Moves Forward As Judge Denies Singer’s Request to Toss Lawsuit

02/06/2024

Lizzo argued in October that that case should be dismissed under California’s so-called anti-SLAPP statute — a special law that makes it easier to quickly end meritless lawsuits that threaten free speech, known as “strategic lawsuits against public participation.” Her attorneys said the dancers’ case was a “brazen attempt to silence defendants’ creative voices.”

As I said at the time, that argument was an unusual one. Anti-SLAPP motions are used quite frequently in defamation lawsuits that have been filed by powerful people against their critics; I can’t ever remember seeing one used by an employer who has been sued by their workers for violating labor laws.

In his decision last week, Judge Epstein largely agreed. Though he said that finding the balance – between free speech and illegal worlkplace conduct – was “no easy task,” he ultimately decided that many of the allegations against Lizzo did not fit under the anti-SLAPP law’s protections.

Go read why in our full story on the Lizzo ruling, including a detailed breakdown of the decision and access to the actual ruling issued by the judge.

Other top stories this week…

TAYLOR SWIFT DEEPFAKES – After X was flooded with fake, sexually-explicit images of Taylor Swift, I dove deep and tried to get an understanding of the legal lay of the land. Were these deepfake images illegal? Should new laws be passed to stop them? Are social media sites doing enough to stop them? Turns out, legal experts say the ugly incident is a sign of things to come, as artificial intelligence tools make deepfakes easier to create and tech companies scale back content moderation. Go read the whole story here.

‘GEORGE & TAMMY’ CASE – Showtime was hit with a lawsuit over the 2022 television series centered on country music legends George Jones and Tammy Wynette, filed by the estate of Wynette’s later husband George Richey. The lawsuit claims that the producers presented a “disparaging” portrayal of Richey that turned him into the “villain” of the show. But it’s not a defamation lawsuit…

RAP ON TRIAL? NOT IN BK – A federal judge overseeing Jam Master Jay’s murder trial in Brooklyn ruled that prosecutors could not cite rap lyrics written by the rapper’s alleged killer as evidence against him – in the process, wading into one of music law’s thorniest issues. After offering a sweeping historical overview of hip hop’s past, the judge warned that general themes of violence and crime have become “so prevalent within the genre that they have little, if any, probative value at trial.” As a result, she said they should only be admitted if they have a clear, direct connection to the facts of the case: “Music artists should be free to create without fear that their lyrics could be unfairly used against them.”

TRIBUTE TRADEMARKS – A tribute band that was sued last year by Earth, Wind & Fire for using the name “Earth Wind & Fire Legacy Reunion” won a small ruling in the ongoing trademark infringement case, allowing them to continue pursuing their eyebrow-raising counterargument: That the legendary R&B group somehow abandoned the intellectual property rights to its name.

SUBLIME MALPRACTICE SUIT – The 90s rock band filed a legal malpractice lawsuit against the prominent music law firm King Holmes Paterno & Soriano LLP, accusing its former attorneys of a “pattern of self-dealing.” Sublime’s surviving members say the firm’s lawyers – including legendary music attorneys Howard King and Peter Paterno – had undisclosed conflicts of interest on numerous matters, including brokering a merchandise deal with one of the firm’s other clients that the band claims cost it millions of dollars. When reached for comment on the allegations, King told Billboard simply: “Welcome to Fantasyland. Please enjoy the ride.”

NIRVANA’S SMILEY FACE FIGHT – A years-long legal battle over the grunge band’s famed smiley face logo could be headed for a major showdown, sparked by a former record label art designer named Robert Fisher who says he, and not Kurt Cobain, created the famed drawing.

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