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 full recap of the music law stories that dominated 2023, from #MeToo to artificial intelligence to Ed Sheeran to Young Thug; an appellate setback for Nirvana in the lawsuit over a naked baby on a famous album cover; a lawsuit filed by New York’s attorney general accusing SiriusXM of “trapping” consumers; and much more.
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Year In Review: 2023’s Top Legal Stories
Before we start bringing you all the upcoming music law stories of 2024 — A verdict in the Atlanta RICO trial? More AI lawsuits? A peace treaty between Hall & Oates?!? — let’s take a quick look back at everything that happened in 2023.
Ed Sheeran went to trial over “Let’s Get It On” — and won big. Young Thug went to trial over accusations of gang violence — and there’s no end in sight. A number of men in the music industry were hit with sexual abuse lawsuits, from label executives to star artists to hip hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs. Lizzo got sued, too, by backup dancers who say she was a toxic boss. And the sudden rise of generative artificial intelligence technology like ChatGPT posed thorny legal questions that could take years to sort out.
To get the full story, go read our entire year-end recap — including the 10 biggest music law stories of 2023 and a slew of honorable mentions.
Other top stories this week…
NIRVANA NAKED BABY CASE – A federal appeals court ruled against Nirvana and revived a child pornography lawsuit filed by Spencer Elden, the man (now in his 30s) who appeared as a nude baby on the cover of the band’s 1991 album Nevermind. The ruling, which said child porn “haunts victims” for years, paves the way for litigation over whether the image actually meets the definition of child pornography — something Nirvana vigorously disputes and some legal experts doubt.
NO-CANCEL CULTURE? – SiriusXM was sued by New York’s attorney general over allegations that the satellite radio and streaming service has made it “extremely difficult” for listeners to cancel their subscriptions, including by subjecting them to “a lengthy and burdensome endurance contest” on the phone. “Sirius deliberately wastes its subscribers’ time even though it has the ability to process cancellations with the click of a button.”
GLORIA TREVI ABUSE CASE – The Mexican pop star sued her former manager and music producer Sergio Andrade, claiming he was a “true predator” who subjected her and other women to “sadistic abuse” in the late 1980s and 1990s. The allegations came as a counter-claim to an earlier lawsuit filed in 2022 by two alleged victims who accused both Andrade and Trevi of “grooming” and “exploiting” them as children.
AMERICAN IDOL ASSAULT CLAIMS – Paula Abdul sued former American Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe over allegations that he sexually assaulted her, including once during the early seasons of Idol and again in 2014 during the production of So You Think You Can Dance.