Welcome to The Legal Beat, a new newsletter from Billboard Pro focused on the fascinating world of music law. I’m Bill Donahue, Billboard‘s senior legal correspondent, and each week I’ll be recapping and linking to all the major legal news you need to know — the big new cases, the important rulings, and all the fun stuff in between. This will be a one-stop legal cheat-sheet sent directly to your inbox, aimed at music attorneys, industry executives, or anyone else who wants to keep up with what the courts are saying about music.
THE BIG STORY: Kim v. Kanye
After months of action on other fronts – from bombastic social media posts to dates with new partners to “more specifically, Kimberly” – Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s divorce is finally heating up in court. A hearing looms this week in a Los Angeles courtroom, and it’s been preceded by a flurry of contentious filings.
In December, Kardashian moved to split the divorce case in two, a plan that would allow her to immediately be declared “single” while slower-moving proceedings over child custody and assets fully play out in court. The move to “bifurcate” a divorce isn’t standard procedure, but it’s also not new or unique.
West objected to that request in February, arguing that it creates a “risk of adverse consequences” that must be resolved before its approved. He demanded several stipulations, including rules for what would happen if one of them should die before the case is fully finalized, and requirements on Kardashian should she choose to quickly remarry.
Those demands didn’t go over well. In a response, Kardashian told a judge that her estranged husband’s “onerous conditions” should be rejected. And she said a quick divorce was more necessary than ever, citing the “emotional stress” caused by his social media outbursts and saying it might “help Kanye to accept that our marital relationship is over.” Ouch. Kanye then quickly filed another response , calling his wife’s accusations “inadmissible hearsay.”
It seemingly didn’t have to be this way. When Kardashian first filed for divorce last year, the hope was that it might be easy, since the pair had signed an extensive prenuptial agreement and reportedly kept their assets divided during the marriage. But Kanye’s latest filing even seemed to challenge the validity of the prenup, arguing there might need to be a full trial over the agreement.
This week’s hearing – covering all of this – kicks off first thing Wednesday…
Other top stories this week…
JAY-Z WINS AGAIN IN COLOGNE CASE – Months after a Manhattan jury cleared Jay-Z of breaching his endorsement deal with a fragrance company called Parlux, a New York appeals court ruled that it was actually Parlux that had gone wrong – to the tune of $4.5 million. The court said the company had continued to sell “Gold Jay-Z” cologne after the deal soured, but had failed to pay Jay-Z royalties for those products. It’s quite the turnaround, considering that Jay-Z was facing the possibility of owing $67 million in damages before last fall’s verdict.
AN ‘ALBUM’ BY ANY OTHER NAME? – Megan Thee Stallion sued her record label again, this time over allegations that the company purposefully misclassified her latest release to keep her locked into her record deal. It’s the latest clash in a two-year legal battle between the budding hip hop star and her label. In the case, Megan said 1501 Certified Entertainment was unfairly refusing to count Something for Thee Hotties – which contained some previously-released material – as one of her contractually-obligated new albums. Sources tell Billboard that Megan will either owe one or two more albums, depending on whether Hotties counts toward the total.
LONDON CALLING FOR JIMI HENDRIX SUIT – The heirs of Jimi Hendrix’s former bandmates demanded that their legal battle with his estate be litigated in London, not New York. The two sides have each filed their own case – on opposite sides of the Atlantic – over the rights to band’s music. In a new motion filed in Manhattan federal court, the estates of bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell asked for the American lawsuit to be dismissed, accusing the Hendrix estate of trying to “circumvent” English courts to win a “sympathetic” judge.
SNOOP SAYS SEX CASE WAS “ATTEMPT TO EXTORT” – Attorneys for Snoop Dogg fired back at a lawsuit that accused the rapper of sexually assaulting a dancer in 2013, saying plainly that “nothing remotely resembling plaintiff’s story about defendant Calvin Broadus ever happened.” They want the judge to dismiss the case immediately, calling it a “thinly veiled attempt to extort defendant for money” just days before he was set to appear during the Super Bowl halftime show.
“LA LA LAND” LAWSUIT UPDATE – William Morris Endeavor moved to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Justin Hurwitz, the Oscar-winning composer of La La Land, over the profits from live concerts of the movie’s score. Hurwitz’s January complaint claimed the talent agency had hidden conflicts of interest and tricked him into taking a bad deal, but WME scoffed at the notion that it somehow duped a former client who is “meticulous and Harvard-educated.”
DRAKEO’S BROTHER: SECURITY WAS ‘TOTALLY ABSENT’ – Live Nation was hit with a second lawsuit over the December stabbing attack that killed Drakeo the Ruler, this time by his brother and several other members the rapper’s entourage who survived the melee. Like an earlier wrongful death lawsuit filed by Drakeo’s son, the case claims the concert giant and other organizers failed to provide sufficient security to keep performers safe. Protective measures ranged from “lackadaisical to totally absent,” the suit said.
NO CHARGES FOR SLIM JXMMI – Miami prosecutors decided not to bring misdemeanor battery charges against the Rae Sremmurd rapper over a recent incident in which he allegedly pulled his girlfriend’s hair and threw her phone off a balcony. An attorney for JXMMI told Billboard that prosecutors were unable to proceed because they lacked sufficient evidence after the woman quickly withdrew her initial statement to police.
Elsewhere on the legal web…
-Taylor Swift won a ruling by a federal appeals court dismissing a copyright lawsuit filed over “Shake It Off,” though it’s important to note that it came in a different lawsuit from a more high-profile case over the same song and 3LW’s hit “Playas Gon’ Play.” That case is still pending. (Bloomberg Law)
-The pregnant wife of country singer Sam Hunt is, in fact, filing for divorce. Though she initially withdrew her petition – prompting speculation that she was having second thoughts – she later quickly refiled in different Tennessee county. She accused him of “inappropriate marital conduct” and “adultery.” (TMZ)
-Prosecutors in the Jam Master Jay murder case told a federal judge that one of the two men accused of killing the beloved Run-DMC member once rapped in front a Queens mural dedicated to his memory. The revelation emerged as prosecutors seek to prevent him from being released on bail ahead of trial, which is currently scheduled for February 2023. (Associated Press)