TI’s sexual assault lawsuit, French Montana ruling and more music law news – Billboard

This is The Legal Beat, a weekly music law newsletter from Billboard Pro that brings you a one-stop table of big new cases, landmark decisions and all the fun stuff in between.

This week: Judge acquits French Montana of copyright infringement, but sympathizes with his accuser; TI and his wife face the latest sexual assault allegations that have rocked the music industry; Cher fights her son over a potential conservator; and much more.

THE BIG STORY: French Montana’s ‘Technical’ Copyright Victory

Imitation may be “the sincerest form of flattery,” but it is not always copyright infringement. That was the key takeaway from an unusual federal court ruling last week in which a judge dismissed a copyright lawsuit against French Montana — but almost seemed to regret having to do so?

The lawsuit against French (Karim Kharbouch) was brought by a little-known Chicago artist named Hotwire The Producer (Eddie Lee Richardson), who claimed that the star rapper’s 2013 hit “Ain’t Worried About Nothin'” included an unlicensed sample from his earlier song “Hood Pushin’ Weight.”

In a ruling Thursday, Judge Nancy L. Maldonado ruled that French’s song technically did not infringe on the rights Richardson secured — he only registered the sound recording copyright, not the underlying musical composition. But she also expressed “a lot of sympathy” for Richardson, complaining that he had failed to fully register his copyright and saying the outcome of the case “could have been very different” if he had.

“If it’s any consolation, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and the court hopes that Richardson will not be deterred in his musical endeavors, now armed with a better understanding of copyright law,” Judge Maldonado wrote. “As it stands, however, Richardson’s evidence in this particular case is insufficient to establish copyright infringement.”

For more on what she thought the judge had to say — including advising French not to celebrate too much over a “technical win” — read our full story.

Other top stories this week…

SEXUAL ASSAULT CASE – The rapper and his wife Tiny were hit with a civil lawsuit alleging they drugged and sexually assaulted a woman they met at a Los Angeles nightclub in 2005. In the complaint, attorneys for Jane Doe’s unnamed accuser said TI (Clifford Harris ) and Tiny (Tameka Harris) gave her a drink after being introduced to them in the VIP section of a club, then took her back to their hotel room where they “forced her to undress” and assaulted her. In a statement to billboardthe couple “vehemently and categorically” denied the allegations and vowed to fight back against the lawsuit, which they say the plaintiff has been threatening to file for years.

JIMMY ALLEN ATTORNEY WANTED – More than six months after Jimmy Allen was hit with two sexual assault charges, news broke that the country star was parting ways with the legal team representing him (from Tennessee law firm Baker Donelson) in the cases. The move to switch lawyers quickly drew objections from his accusers, who argued he was impeding the progress of the litigation by “cutting through lawyers”.

CHER FIGHTS SON FOR CONSULTANCY – A Los Angeles judge declined to immediately award Cher (Elijah Blue Allman) legal custody of her son — a settlement she is seeking over his opposition — but said she will take up the matter again later this month. Cher filed a petition for conservatorship late last year, arguing that Elijah’s struggles with addiction and mental health left him unable to manage his money and potentially put his life in danger by making him capable of buying drugs.

BATTLE TO KILL TUPAC — A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday on whether Dwayne “Keffe D” Davis, the former Los Angeles gang leader accused of masterminding the killing of hip-hop legend Tupac Shakur, should be released on bail. The trial was originally scheduled for last week, but was postponed after prosecutors raised new arguments about why Davis poses a threat to society if released.

MAREN MORRIS’S DIVORCE IS SETTLED – Maren Morris has reached an agreement to settle her divorce case against singer/songwriter Ryan Heard, her husband of five years. Under the terms of the deal, Morris, 33, will pay Heard, 37, $2,100 a month in child support as the two share time with their three-and-a-half-year-old son Hayes Andrew. Most of the rest of the settlement was settled in a prenuptial agreement, which the couple signed in 2018 and updated in 2022.

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