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: Snoop Dogg sues Post and Walmart for allegedly sabotaging his brand of breakfast cereal, Taylor Swift threatens to sue a college student for tracking her private jet; Kanye West is accused of illegal sampling by Ozzy Osbourne and the estate of Donna Summer; and much more.
THE BIG STORY: Snoop Says Post & Walmart Were Cereal Killers
If you had “Snoop Dogg,” “cereal” and “lawsuit” on your 2024 bingo card, congrats.
Broadus Foods, a company owned by Snoop and Master P, filed a lawsuit last week accusing food giant Post of sabotaging the rollout of the company’s Snoop Cereal brand. As you might expect, the complaint had some rhetorical flair — leveling charges of “underhanded dealing” and “diabolical actions.”
The case claims that Post signed a deal to produce and distribute the brand, but then secretly “ensured that Snoop Cereal would not be available to consumers.” The rappers claim the move was payback after Snoop (Calvin Broadus) and Master P (Percy Miller) refused to sell their company to Post.
“Essentially, because Snoop Dogg and Master refused to sell Snoop Cereal in totality, Post entered a false arrangement where they could choke Broadus Foods out of the market, thereby preventing Snoop Cereal from being sold or produced by any competitor,” lawyers for Snoop’s company wrote.
The case – filed by prominent civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump — also named Walmart as a defendant, claiming that the retail giant played a key role in “the most egregious example” of Post’s alleged wrongdoing.
For more information, go read our full story on the lawsuit, including access to the actual docs filed in the case.
CALLING ALL MUSIC LAWYERS! For the first time, Billboard is expanding its peer-voted Power Players’ Choice Award to cover music’s top lawyers, and we’re asking industry members from all sectors to honor the attorney they believe had the most impact across the business in the past year. Voting is now open to all Billboard Pro members, both existing and new, with one vote per member per round.
Other top stories…
TAYLOR SWIFT PLANE TRACKER – Days before her big Super Bowl appearance, news broke that Taylor’s lawyers had threatened to sue a Florida college student named Jack Sweeney who runs social media accounts that track celebrity private jets, including Swift’s. In their cease-and-desist letter, her lawyers called Sweeney’s posts “stalking and harassing behavior” and warned that they “have no choice but to pursue any and all legal remedies” if he did not stop posting the locations of Swift’s private jet. What might those remedies actually be? It wasn’t specified.
SWIFT STALKER WON’T STAND TRIAL – Whether or not it’s illegal to track her plane, Taylor’s lawyers have good reason to be concerned about stalkers. On Friday, a man criminally charged for lurking outside the star’s Manhattan apartment was declared mentally unfit for trial, meaning his case will be dismissed and he will be transferred to a mental health facility until doctors clear him to be released.
KANYE SAMPLES SNAFU – Both rocker Ozzy Osbourne and the estate of legendary singer Donna Summer publicly accused Kanye West of using their songs without permission on his new album, even after they had specifically rejected his requests for licenses. Calling West an “antisemite,” Ozzy took to social media to blast the rapper: “I want no association with this man!” The Summer estate, meanwhile, claimed the embattled rapper had committed “copyright infringement” by seemingly interpolating her song. In an interview with Billboard’s Robert Levine, Ozzy’s wife and manager Sharon Osbourne explained the backstory: “We get so many requests for these songs, and when we saw that request, we just said no way.”
PANDORA SUED BY MLC – The Mechanical Licensing Collective – the group created by Congress in 2018 to collect royalties – filed a lawsuit against Pandora, alleging that the internet radio platform has been failing to adequately pay and report its monthly royalties. The case could dive into tricky questions about whether or not 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 law.
TIKTOK DISCRIMINATION CASE – With the social media giant currently at the center of a high-profile showdown with Universal Music Group, the company was hit with a gender discrimination lawsuit from a top female executive named Katie Ellen Puris, who says she was fired because TikTok’s upper leadership required “docility and meekness” from women.
CABO WABO IN COURT – Sammy Hagar‘s company demanded that a federal judge shut down an allegedly unauthorized Hollywood location of his Cabo Wabo Cantina, claiming that a former franchisee had effectively gone rogue and was damaging the rock star’s reputation.
KANYE CLASS ACTION – Adidas AG asked a federal judge to dismiss a class action that claims the company violated securities laws by failing to sufficiently warn investors about Ye’s offensive behavior and the risk it posed to the company’s share price. “This lawsuit is a misguided attempt to transform the dramatic and unfortunate end of the commercial partnership between Adidas and Ye… into a claim for securities fraud,” the company’s lawyers wrote.