Power Players 2024

Eagles’ Don Henley Files Lawsuit for Return of Handwritten ‘Hotel California’ Lyrics

The civil complaint was filed in Manhattan federal court on Friday (June 28).

Don Henley of The Eagles leaves Manhattan Criminal Court on Feb. 26, 2024 in New York City.

Eagles singer Don Henley filed a lawsuit in New York on Friday (June 28) seeking the return of his handwritten notes and song lyrics from the band’s 1976 album Hotel California.

The civil complaint filed in Manhattan federal court comes after prosecutors in March abruptly dropped criminal charges midway through a trial against three collectibles experts accused of scheming to sell the documents.

The Eagles co-founder has maintained the pages were stolen and had vowed to pursue a lawsuit when the criminal case was dropped against rare books dealer Glenn Horowitz, former Rock & Roll Hall of Fame curator Craig Inciardi and rock memorabilia seller Edward Kosinski.


“These 100 pages of personal lyric sheets belong to Mr. Henley and his family, and he has never authorized defendants or anyone else to peddle them for profit,” Daniel Petrocelli, Henley’s lawyer, said in an emailed statement Friday.

According to the lawsuit, the handwritten pages remain in the custody of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office, which declined to comment Friday on the litigation.

Lawyers for Kosinski and Inciardi dismissed the legal action as baseless, noting the criminal case was dropped after it was determined that Henley misled prosecutors by withholding critical information.

“Don Henley is desperate to rewrite history,” Shawn Crowley, Kosinski’s lawyer, said in an emailed statement. “We look forward to litigating this case and bringing a lawsuit against Henley to hold him accountable for his repeated lies and misuse of the justice system.”

Inciardi’s lawyer, Stacey Richman, said in a separate statement that the lawsuit attempts to “bully” and “perpetuate a false narrative.”

A lawyer for Horowitz, who isn’t named as a defendant as he doesn’t claim ownership of the materials, didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

During the trial, the men’s lawyers argued that Henley gave the lyrics pages decades ago to a writer who worked on a never-published Eagles biography and later sold the handwritten sheets to Horowitz. He, in turn, sold them to Inciardi and Kosinski, who started putting some of the pages up for auction in 2012.


The criminal case was abruptly dropped after prosecutors agreed that defense lawyers had essentially been blindsided by 6,000 pages of communications involving Henley and his attorneys and associates.

Prosecutors and the defense said they received the material only after Henley and his lawyers made a last-minute decision to waive their attorney-client privilege shielding legal discussions.

Judge Curtis Farber, who presided over the nonjury trial that opened in late February, said witnesses and their lawyers used attorney-client privilege “to obfuscate and hide information that they believed would be damaging” and that prosecutors “were apparently manipulated.”

This article was originally published by Billboard U.S.

Three Major Labels Sue Two Powerful AI Music Firms

Suno and Udio have both made headlines for their ease in generating music, and the latter led to one of the most notorious pieces of AI music: Metro Boomin's Drake diss track 'BBL Drizzy.'

The art for King Willonius's original 'BBL Drizzy,' later sampled by Metro Boomin.

The 'Big Three' major labels are coming together to challenge two powerful AI music firms.

Billboard Pro reports that Sony Music, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group are filing lawsuits against Suno and Udio — two of the most advanced players in the young field of generative AI.

Spearheaded by the Recording Association of America (RIAA), the lawsuits allege that the companies have unlawfully copied labels' sound recordings to train their generative AI music models.

“Building and operating [these services] requires at the outset copying and ingesting massive amounts of data to ‘train’ a software ‘model’ to generate outputs,” the lawyers for the major labels explain. “For [these services], this process involved copying decades worth of the world’s most popular sound recordings and then ingesting those copies [to] generate outputs that imitate the qualities of genuine human sound recordings.”


Udio has already produced one of the most notorious pieces of AI music, Metro Boomin's Drake diss track beat "BBL Drizzy." The track was a remix of an AI-generated beat. Later used by Drake himself, it actually created a precedent for how samples using AI are cleared.

Suno, called "A ChatGPT For Music" in a much talked about Rolling Stone article, launched in late 2023 and already has raised $125 million in funding.

The lawsuit aims to bar the companies from continuing to train on copyrighted songs and damages from the infringements that have allegedly already taken place.

As AI continues to evolve quickly, it's a flashpoint in the music industry. While some companies have tried to get ahead and use the technology in a responsible way, others are looking to curb murky copyright grey areas before they become the standard.

The results of these lawsuits could have big implications, but they likely won't be the last.

Read more here.


Live Nation Hit With DOJ Antitrust Lawsuit: ‘It’s Time to Break It Up’

"We allege that Live Nation controls the live entertainment industry in the United States because it is breaking the law," said Attorney General Merrick Garland.

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice Building on March 21, 2024 in Washington, DC.

The U.S. Department of Justice and a group of 30 states on Thursday filed a long-awaited antitrust lawsuit against Live Nation, accusing the concert giant of market dominance and demanding that it and Ticketmaster be broken up. “It is time to break it up,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland at an announcement on Thursday.

The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court, claims that Live Nation has abused its huge market power to stifle competition, including through the use of exclusive ticketing contracts that lock venues into using Ticketmaster for all events. As part of its case against Live Nation, Garland said the government will present evidence taken from emails between Live Nation chief executive Michael Rapino and Oak View Group chief Tim Leiweke, as well as communications between Rapino and the head of powerful equity firm Silver Lake capital.


“We allege that Live Nation has repeatedly wielded its powers to keep its rivals from expanding in the U.S. concert promotions market through threats and retaliation,” Garland said. In his remarks, he alleged that in 2021, Live Nation threatened to retaliate against Silver Lake unless it divested from TEG, one of its portfolio companies. According to Garland, Live Nation chief Michael Rapino told Silver Lake that he “failed to understand why [the equity firm] continued to invest in a business that competes with Live Nation.”

Garland added: “The threats ultimately succeeded and Silver Lake has tried to sell TEG altogether. We allege that Live Nation does not maintain its dominance in the live industry by staying ahead of its competition on the merits. It does so by unlawfully eliminating its competition. We allege that Live Nation controls the live entertainment industry in the United States because it is breaking the law.”

To address the alleged violations, the DOJ argues that Live Nation must divest ownership of Ticketmaster – effectively undoing a controversial 2010 merger that was approved by federal regulators despite fears that it would give the company too much power over live music.


“Today’s complaint alleges that Live Nation-Ticketmaster have engaged in anticompetitive conduct to cement their dominance of the live concert market and act as the gatekeeper for an entire industry,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco during today’s press conference. “Today’s action is a step forward in making this era of live music more accessible for the fans, the artists, and the industry that supports them.”

Live Nation has long faced criticism over its market share, but scrutiny of the company increased dramatically following the disastrous November 2022 rollout of tickets for Taylor Swift’s 2023 Eras Tour, which saw widespread service delays and website crashes.

The DOJ had already launched an investigation into the company’s practices earlier in 2022, prior to the Swift incident. But the botched presale sparked Congressional hearings, civil antitrust lawsuits, and calls to break up the company. Lawmakers like Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the chair of the Senate subcommittee for antitrust issues, warned that Live Nation’s power “insulates it from the competitive pressures that typically push companies to innovate and improve their services.”


According to the 120-page complaint filed by the government, Live Nation-Ticketmaster has “unlawfully maintained monopolies in several concert promotions and primary ticketing markets and engaged in other exclusionary conduct affecting live concert venues, including arenas and amphitheaters.”

The complaint specifically takes aim at Live Nation’s “flywheel model,” which it describes as a “self-reinforcing business model that captures fees and revenue from concert fans and sponsorship, uses that revenue to lock up artists to exclusive promotion deals, and then uses its powerful cache of live content to sign venues into long term exclusive ticketing deals, thereby starting the cycle all over again.”


Live Nation has rejected such accusations. In a blog post last month, the company’s top antitrust lawyer argued that claims about “monopolies” were designed to “rile up fans against Live Nation and Ticketmaster.” As recently as Tuesday, company president Joe Berchtold said that the company’s practices were “fully defensible” and that a settlement with the DOJ was still possible.

“The DOJ’s lawsuit won’t solve the issues fans care about relating to ticket prices, service fees, and access to in-demand shows,” a statement from Live Nation reads. “Calling Ticketmaster a monopoly may be a PR win for the DOJ in the short term, but it will lose in court because it ignores the basic economics of live entertainment, such as the fact that the bulk of service fees go to venues, and that competition has steadily eroded Ticketmaster’s market share and profit margin. Our growth comes from helping artists tour globally, creating lasting memories for millions of fans, and supporting local economies across the country by sustaining quality jobs. We will defend against these baseless allegations, use this opportunity to shed light on the industry, and continue to push for reforms that truly protect consumers and artists.”

When Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in 2010, the DOJ approved the deal but imposed a so-called consent decree designed to prevent the company from abusing its position. Those restrictions were set to expire in 2020, but they were extended by five years after the DOJ accused Live Nation of repeatedly violating the decree.

This article was originally published by Billboard U.S.

TikTok Sues to Overturn U.S. Law Forcing Sale or National Ban: ‘Obviously Unconstitutional’

The social media giant and its Chinese owner say the recently-enacted legislation is an "unprecedented" violation of free speech.

Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

TikTok and parent company ByteDance have filed a federal lawsuit aimed at overturning recently-passed legislation requiring the Chinese company to sell the popular app or face a national ban, arguing that it violates the First Amendment.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in D.C. federal court, TikTok and Byte Dance called the law an “unprecedented” and unconstitutional action aimed at “singling out” one company and “silencing” more than 170 million Americans who use TikTok.“

For the first time in history, Congress has enacted a law that subjects a single, named speech platform to a permanent, nationwide ban,” lawyers for the two companies wrote. “There are good reasons why Congress has never before enacted a law like this.”


The lawsuit came just week after President Joe Biden signed the Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, which requires that ByteDance either divest ownership of TikTok by Jan. 19 or face a national ban on the app. Proponents have argued that TikTok presents a national security threat because of its connections to the Chinese government and access to millions of Americans.

In Tuesday’s complaint, TikTok argued that such national security concerns were not sufficient to override the First Amendment’s protections for free speech. The company’s attorneys said lawmakers had failed to “articulate any threat posed by TikTok” and had cited only “speculative concerns,” meaning they were making an “extraordinary and unconstitutional assertion of power” without clear reason.

“If Congress can do this, it can circumvent the First Amendment by invoking national security and ordering the publisher of any individual newspaper or website to sell to avoid being shut down,” TikTok’s lawyers wrote.

The new lawsuit came just days after TikTok – an increasingly influential part of the music industry ecosystem – reached an agreement with Universal Music Group to end a months-long standoff over rights to the music giant’s catalog.


In the new complaint, TikTok argued that it had already spent billions of dollars addressing the potential security risks cited by lawmakers, and had reached voluntary agreements with executive agencies like the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to safeguard user data and the integrity against foreign government influence.

“Congress tossed this tailored agreement aside, in favor of the politically expedient and punitive approach of targeting for disfavor one publisher and speaker,” TikTok’s attorneys wrote. “Congress must abide by the dictates of the Constitution even when it claims to be protecting against national security risk.”

TikTok has already had success in court over U.S. efforts to ban the app. Citing the First Amendment, a federal judge in 2020 blocked former President Donald J. Trump from carrying out an executive order barring TikTok from app stores. And last year, a federal judge in Montana overturned a law in that state banning the app, ruling that legislation not only violated free speech, but also encroached on federal authority to regulate foreign relations.

This article was originally published by Billboard U.S.

Astroworld Victims Want Trial to Be Broadcast Live to the Public: ‘Transparency And Accountability’

Set to start next month, the trial will be the pivotal first clash in billion-dollar litigation over Travis Scott's deadly 2021 festival.

A visitor writes a note at a memorial outside of the canceled Astroworld festival at NRG Park on Nov. 7, 2021 in Houston.

Victims of the Astroworld music festival want their looming trial against Travis Scott, Live Nation and other organizers to be livestreamed to the public, citing a public demand for “transparency and accountability.”

After more than two years of litigation over the 2021 crowd crush at the Astroworld — a disaster that left 10 dead and hundreds injured — the first jury trial is set to kick off early next month. It will be a pivotal first test for hundreds of other lawsuits filed by alleged victims that claim the organizers were legally negligent in how they planned and operated the festival.


In a motion on Thursday (April 25), lawyers for the plaintiffs in the upcoming trial argued that it should be broadcast live on the internet, saying such a step was needed to “ensure that all those affected by the Astroworld tragedy can observe the proceedings and stay informed of the trial’s progress.”

“The devastating scale of the events at Astroworld, combined with the involvement of high-profile defendants, has generated significant national attention and a legitimate public demand for transparency and accountability,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers write. “By livestreaming the trial, the Court will demonstrate its commitment to open and accessible proceedings, fostering public trust and confidence in the judicial system’s handling of this consequential matter.”

A ruling opening up her courtroom to cameras would be a major shift for the judge overseeing the Astroworld litigation. Back in 2022, citing the risk that potential jurors might become biased, Judge Kristen Hawkins imposed an unusually strong gag order that has severely limited public knowledge about the status of the case.

Media outlets like ABC challenged Judge Hawkins’ gag order, arguing that it was depriving the public of information about important judicial proceedings over a newsworthy event. But a Texas appeals court upheld the media ban last year without explanation.


Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed over the deadly crowd crush during Scott’s Nov. 5, 2021, headlining set at Astroworld. The cases, collectively seeking billions in damages, claim that organizers bear legal responsibility for the disaster because of poor safety planning and failure to stop the show after problems had been reported.

The lawsuits have spent much of the last two years in discovery, as the two sides exchanged information and took depositions of key figures. But now the first trial in the massive litigation — over a wrongful death case filed by the family of Madison Dubiski, a 23-year-old who died at Astroworld — is set to start on May 6.

In seeking to have that trial aired live, attorneys for Dubiski’s family argued that it was “impractical” for everyone involved in the litigation to attend the proceedings physically: “There are hundreds of plaintiffs and their family members, numerous defendants, and a multitude of counsel to account for.”

But they also hinted that they think the judge might have doubts about broadcasting the trial. The recording would be “conducted unobtrusively, with minimal disruption to the trial process,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers said, and the judge will have the ability to “pause or terminate the broadcast if necessary to preserve order or to protect sensitive information.” And witnesses would be sequestered and required not to watch the stream “to safeguard the fairness and impartiality of the proceedings.”


The judge will presumably rule on the motion in the next week before the trial gets underway.

This article was originally published by Billboard U.S.

Tupac Shakur’s Estate Threatens to Sue Drake Over Diss Track Featuring AI-Generated Tupac Voice

In a cease-and-desist letter to Drake obtained exclusively by Billboard, the late rapper's estate says it is "deeply dismayed" and would "never have given its approval."

Tupac Shakur poses for a portrait during the 1994 Source Awards on April 25, 1994 at the Paramount Theatre in New York.

Tupac Shakur’s estate is threatening to sue Drake over a recent diss track against Kendrick Lamar that featured an AI-generated version of the late rapper’s voice, calling it a “a flagrant violation” of the law and a “blatant abuse” of his legacy.

In a Wednesday cease-and-desist letter obtained exclusively by Billboard, litigator Howard King told Drake (Aubrey Drake Graham) that he must confirm that he will pull down his “Taylor Made Freestyle” in less than 24 hours or the estate would “pursue all of its legal remedies” against him.

“The Estate is deeply dismayed and disappointed by your unauthorized use of Tupac’s voice and personality,” King wrote in the letter. “Not only is the record a flagrant violation of Tupac’s publicity and the estate’s legal rights, it is also a blatant abuse of the legacy of one of the greatest hip-hop artists of all time. The Estate would never have given its approval for this use.”


Drake released “Taylor Made” on Friday, marking the latest chapter in a back-and-forth war of words between the Canadian rapper and Lamar. Beyond taking shots at both Kendrick and Taylor Swift, the track made headlines because of its prominent use of artificial intelligence technology to create fake verses from Tupac and Snoop Dogg – two West Coast legends idolized by the LA-based Lamar.

“Kendrick, we need ya, the West Coast savior/ Engraving your name in some hip-hop history,” the AI-generated Tupac raps in Drake’s song. “If you deal with this viciously/ You seem a little nervous about all the publicity.”

In Tuesday’s letter, Tupac’s estate warned Drake that the use of his voice clearly violated Tupac’s so-called publicity rights – the legal power to control how your image or likeness is used by others. And they took particular exception the use of his voice to take shots at Lamar.


“The unauthorized, equally dismaying use of Tupac’s voice against Kendrick Lamar, a good friend to the Estate who has given nothing but respect to Tupac and his legacy publicly and privately, compounds the insult,” King wrote.

A rep for Drake declined to comment on the demands of the Shakur estate.

It’s unclear if Snoop Dogg, whose voice was also featured on “Taylor Made,” is planning to raise similar legal objections to Drake’s track. On Saturday, he posted a video to social media in which he seemed to be learning of the song for the first time: “They did what? When? How? Are you sure?” A rep for Snoop Dogg did not return a request for comment.

The unauthorized use of voice cloning technology has become one of the music industry’s thorniest legal subjects, as AI-powered tools have made easier than ever to convincingly mimic real artists.

The issue exploded onto the scene last year, when an unknown artist named Ghostwriter released a track called “Heart On My Sleeve” that featured – ironically – fake verses from Drake’s voice. Since then, as voice-cloning has proliferated on the internet, industry groups, legal experts and lawmakers have wrangled over how best to crack down on it.


It’s not as simple as it might seem. Federal copyrights are difficult to directly apply, since cloned vocals usually feature new words and music that are distinct from existing copyrighted songs. The publicity rights cited by the estate are a better fit because they protect someone’s likeness itself, but they have historically been used to sue over advertisements, rather than over creative works like songs.

Faced with that legal uncertainty, the recording industry and top artists have pushed for new legislation to address the problem. Last month, Tennessee passed a statute called the ELVIS Act that aims to crack down on voice cloning by expanding the state’s publicity right laws beyond just advertisements. Lawmakers in Washington DC are also considering similar bills that would create new, broader publicity rights at a federal level.


In Wednesday’s letter, however, the estate said that California’s existing publicity right laws clearly outlaw something as blatant as Drake’s use of Tupac’s voice in “Taylor Made.” King argued that the song had caused “substantial economic and reputational harm” by creating the “false impression that the estate and Tupac promote or endorse the lyrics for the sound-alike.”

The estate also argued that the song was likely created using an AI model that violated the estate’s copyrights by “training” on existing recordings of Tupac’s music. The legality of using copyrighted “inputs” is another difficult legal issue that’s currently being tested in several closely-watched lawsuits against AI developers, including one filed by major music publishers.

“It is hard to believe that [Tupac’s record label]’s intellectual property was not scraped to create the fake Tupac AI on the Record,” King wrote, before demanding that Drake also provide “a detailed explanation for how the sound-alike was created and the persons or company that created it, including all recordings and other data ‘scraped’ or used.”

Wednesday’s letter also pointedly highlighted that Drake himself has made previous objections to the use of his own likeness by others. In addition to last year’s incident surrounding “Heart on My Sleeve” — which was quickly pulled down from the internet — King pointed to a lesser-known federal lawsuit in which Drake’s attorneys accused a website of using his image without authorization.

“The [“Taylor Made Freestyle”] has generated well more than one million streams at this point and has been widely reported in the general national press and popular entertainment websites and publications,” the estate wrote. “Without question, it is exponentially more serious and damaging than a picture of you with some other people on a low volume website.”


In its closing paragraphs, the letter demanded written confirmation by noon Pacific on Thursday that Drake’s representatives were “expeditiously taking all steps necessary to have it removed.”

“If you comply, the estate will consider whether an informal negotiation to resolve this matter makes sense,” King wrote. “If you do not comply, our client has authorized this firm to pursue all of its legal remedies including, but not limited to, an action for violation of … the estate’s copyright, publicity and personality rights and the resulting damages, injunctive relief, and punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.”

This article was originally published by Billboard U.S.