AI Laws, Jelly Roll Lawsuit, Taylor Swift On TikTok & More Legal News

AI Laws, Jelly Roll Lawsuit, Taylor Swift On TikTok & More 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: Legal experts raise concerns about Tennessee’s new ELVIS Act and other laws aimed at AI-powered voice cloning; Jelly Roll faces a trademark lawsuit from a Philadelphia wedding band with the same name; Taylor Swift and other artists get their music back on TikTok; and much more.

THE BIG STORY: Are New AI Voice Laws Going Too Far?

State and federal lawmakers across the country are scrambling to crack down on voice cloning – an effort cheered on by the music industry and artists. But some legal experts are worried such laws might be an “overreaction” that could have unintended consequences.

With last month’s enactment of the ELVIS Act, Tennessee became the first state in the country to pass legislation aimed at protecting artists from situations like last year’s infamous fake Drake song. At least five other states are considering similar bills, and a federal version is currently being debated on Capitol Hill.

Those laws address a very real problem – namely, that artificial intelligence tools have made it far easier to convincingly mimic a real person’s voice, and existing laws seem only to provide them with limited recourse to stop it.

But while legislative efforts to fix that have been broadly supported by the music industry, they’ve met a more mixed reaction among some legal experts, who are concerned that the rush to pass new laws could lead to collateral damage for free speech and other “innocuous” behavior – ranging from tribute bands to interpolations.

Other top stories this week…

JELLY ROLL TRADEMARK SUIT – The rapper-turned-country star was hit with a trademark infringement lawsuit from a well-known Philadelphia wedding band that has used the name Jellyroll for decades. The case claims that Jelly Roll’s increasing popularity over the past two years has flooded the market with the name, making it difficult for prospective clients to find “Philly’s favorite wedding band.”

TIKTOK & TAYLOR – Why is music from Taylor Swift and certain other Universal Music Group artists back on TikTok, despite an ongoing licensing feud that has seen the music giant pull its catalog from the social media platform for months? As explained by Billboard’s Elias Leight and Kristin Robinson, the answer mostly boils down to leverage and good lawyering.

LIVE NATION TO FACE SUIT – The U.S. Department of Justice is reportedly planning to sue Live Nation within a matter of weeks over alleged violations of federal antitrust laws, including that the company leveraged it dominant position over the live music industry to undermine competition for ticketing. The case follows years of antitrust criticism of Live Nation, which increased in intensity after the company’s botched handling of ticket sales for Taylor Swift’s “Eras” tour in November 2022.

Hyein, Hanni, Minji, Danielle and Haerin of NewJeans photographed on March 6, 2024 at YouTube Theater at Hollywood Park in Los Angeles, CA.

NewJeans in LA on March 6, 2024.

Sami Drasin

K-POP DEFAMATION BATTLE – The K-pop group NewJeans asked a U.S. federal court to force Google to unmask an anonymous YouTube user so that the person can be criminally prosecuted in South Korea for posting “false and defamatory videos.” The case that highlighted the stark differences between defamation laws in America and Korea – where even true statements can get you hauled into court, and criminal convictions can lead to “imprisonment with labor for up to seven years.”

PANDORA HITS BACK AT MLC – The streaming service fired back at a lawsuit filed by the Mechanical Licensing Collective that claims the company has failed to properly pay streaming royalties, calling the case a “gross overreach” based on a “legally incoherent position.” The case centers on whether Pandora’s free ad-supported service is an “interactive” platform like Spotify, or more similar to a “noninteractive” radio broadcast – a key distinction under the federal copyright laws that govern royalty payments.

FAKE MERCH, REAL PROBLEMS – Bootleg artist merchandise is a big problem, as attorneys for the biggest stars in the world say they send countless takedown notices annually but that they face “a game of Whack-a-Mole” with few easy answers. Go read Billboard’s story from Steve Knopper, who chatted with numerous lawyers on the front lines in the war against fake merch.

RADIO RIGHTS SETTLEMENT – Global Music Rights, Irving Azoff’s boutique performance rights organization that reps Bruce Springsteen, Bruno Mars, Prince, Drake and others, settled a copyright infringement lawsuit in which it had accused seven Vermont radio stations of refusing to license the group’s music.

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