Wu-Tang Album Lawsuit, Justin Timberlake Arrest, Young Thug’s Lawyer & More 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: Wu-Tang Clan’s one-of-a-kind album is at the center of a lawsuit against Martin Shkreli; Justin Timberlake faces a drunk driving charge; Young Thug’s lawyer avoids jail and demands that a judge recuse himself; Drake is sued by Members Only for trademark infringement; and much more.

THE BIG STORY: Once Upon A Time In Court

When the Wu-Tang Clan auctioned off their one-of-a-kind album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin to Martin Shkreli in 2015, the deal was famous for its kooky restrictions. A rumor about a clause allowing Bill Murray to steal the CD in a heist turned out to be fictional, but the deal really did include a requirement that the music could not be released to the general public until 2103.  

Needless to say, a lot has changed since then. Shkreli soon became the hated “Pharma Bro” who spiked the price of crucial AIDS medications; he then forfeited the album to federal prosecutors after he was convicted on securities fraud charges. Years later, the government then re-sold Shaolin to a group called PleasrDAO. 

But those weird contractual restrictions came back into the picture twice this past week — first when Pleasr sued Shkreli for threatening to leak the album online, and again when Pleasr itself said it would be offering fans the chance to buy a snippet of the mysterious album for just $1. 

Go read our full story on the lawsuit against Shkreli, which Billboard will be monitoring closely as it moves forward in court. And then go read our deep-dive into how a famously restricted album is being “offered to the public” decades earlier than it was supposed to be. 

Other top stories this week…

TIMBERLAKE ARREST Justin Timberlake was arrested in the Hamptons on suspicion of driving while intoxicated after a police officer pulled him over for running a stop sign and failing to stay in his lane. According to court records, Timberlake told police he “had one martini and I followed my friends home,” but his “eyes were bloodshot and glassy” and the officer smelled “a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage” before he failed a field sobriety test.

NO JAIL FOR THUG’S LAWYERYoung Thug’s attorney in his Atlanta gang trial isn’t going to jail — at least not for now. Days after Judge Ural Glanville held Brian Steel in contempt over a bizarre courtroom episode centered on claims of a secret meeting between the judge, prosecutors and a key witness, Georgia’s Supreme Court hit pause on Steel’s sentence while it reviews the judge’s decision. 

RECUSAL REFUSAL – Meanwhile, Steel demanded that Glanville recuse himself from the case, arguing that the secret meeting was an “unforgiveable” error and that the judge had “forfeited its role as an impartial judge and has become a member of the prosecution team.” The judge quickly denied the motion, saying Steel had provided only “bare assertions and legal conclusions.” 

MEMBERS ONLY v. DRAKE Drake’s production company was hit with a lawsuit from the apparel brand Members Only, which claims that he’s been selling tour merch that infringed the company’s trademarks. The superstar’s concert t-shirts are a reference to a track of the same name on his 2023 album For All the Dogs, but the lawsuit says that’s no excuse. 

CARTEL CONCERTS? Angel Del Villar, the CEO of Los Angeles-based Del Records, asked a federal judge to dismiss criminal charges accusing him of doing business with a concert promoter linked to Mexican drug cartels. Del Villar’s lawyers say the indictment, handed down in 2022, is unfairly vague and the sign of an eventual “sucker punch” by prosecutors. 

LIL UZI SUED OVER UNPAID BILLSLil Uzi Vert was sued by a touring production company called M99 Studios that claims the rapper owes more than $500,000 in unpaid bills for work done at last year’s Rolling Loud, Roots Picnic and other events. Among other things, the lawsuit claims the bills involve satisfying the rapper’s “unrealistic production requests,” including finding and hiring more than two dozen adult dancers to appear onstage at a concert last year. 

DIVORCE DRAMA Billy Ray Cyrus filed an emergency motion in Tennessee court amid his ongoing divorce from the singer Firerose, accusing her of nearly $100,000 in unauthorized credit card charges and seeking a temporary restraining order to stop her.