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‘Landmark’ Copyright Rule, Prince Estate Lawsuit, Jelly Roll Name Case & More Top Music Law News

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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 new copyright rule on streaming royalties and termination rights is hailed as a “landmark victory” for songwriters; a judge rules on the latest legal battle inside the Prince estate; a band called Jellyroll drops its trademark lawsuit against Jelly Roll; and much more.

THE BIG STORY: ‘Landmark Victory’ On Termination & Streaming

The U.S. Copyright Office has finalized a new rule to clear up uncertainty about who gets paid streaming royalties when songwriters take back their music rights – a wonky subject, but one that roused superstars and advocacy groups into action to secure a “landmark victory” for songwriters.

The new rule addresses complicated issues about how the Music Modernization Act’s blanket license for streaming royalties interacts with so-called termination rights – a federal provision that empowers authors to reclaim the rights to their copyrighted works decades after selling them away.

It seems straightforward that if a songwriter invokes termination to win back their songs, they should get paid for them. But due to complex legal questions (mind-meltingly complex, trust me on this), the Mechanical Licensing Collective had implemented a policy that critics warned might keep streaming royalties flowing – in perpetuity – to the companies that used to own the rights.

Following a multi-year effort that included a push from artists like Don Henley, Sheryl Crow, Sting, Bob Seger, Maren Morris, John Mayer and many others, the Copyright Office overturned that “erroneous” approach this week. For more, go read our full story, complete with an explainer of the legal issues, reactions from the industry, and access to the text of the new rule.

Other top stories this week…

PRINCE ESTATE FIGHT – A Delaware judge issued a key decision in the latest legal battle over the Prince estate, ruling that a group of the star’s heirs could not oust two of Prince’s former business advisors (L. Londell McMillan and Charles Spicer Jr.) from leadership roles. The judge said the advisors had been vested with “broad” authority and could not be removed after one heir “came to regret this decision.”

JELLYROLL v. JELLY ROLL – The leader of a Philadelphia wedding band called “Jellyroll” agreed to drop a trademark lawsuit he filed earlier this year against rapper-turned-country singer Jelly Roll, claiming he had settled the case by reaching an “amicable agreement” with the superstar artist. But the move to drop the case was unilateral and the artists reps did not confirm that any kind of deal had been reached.

CARDI B COPYRIGHT – The rapper was sued for copyright infringement by a pair of producers (Joshua Fraustro and Miguel Aguilar) who claim that Cardi used their earlier track without permission in her hit single “Enough (Miami).”

DIDDY SUED AGAIN – Sean “Diddy” Combs was hit with another sexual abuse case, this time by an exotic dancer named Adria English who claims she was a victim of a sex trafficking operation. Like one of the many previous cases against Combs, the new lawsuit claims he and others violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, the federal “RICO” law that’s historically been used to target the mafia, drug cartels and other organized crime rings.

LYRICAL PROBATION? Following an 11-year prison sentence on federal gun charges, New Orleans rapper B.G. will be required to provide the U.S. Probation Office with a copy of the lyrics to his upcoming songs before producing and promoting them. The arrangement – the product of an agreement between prosecutors and defense attorneys – came months after prosecutors arrested B.G. for violating his parole by performing at a Las Vegas concert alongside rapper Lil Boosie.

GUITAR RULING SHREDDED – A federal appeals court overturned a jury verdict won by guitar maker Gibson against a smaller company that allegedly copied the trademarked shape of the Flying V and other iconic designs. The reason? The appeals court said the trial judge improperly excluded key evidence that might have helped show that the design was too “generic” for trademark protection.

Bill Donahue

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