The Rolling Stones Are Headed to Court – Plus Morris Day, The Offspring & More

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 song-theft copyright lawsuit against the Rolling Stones over a rare release of new music in 2020; a one-year-later update on Morris Day’s dispute with the Prince estate over his band name and music rights; a ruling for the Offspring against an ex-drummer who wanted a bigger cut of the band’s $35 million catalog sale; and much more.

Want to get The Legal Beat newsletter in your email inbox every Tuesday? Subscribe here for free.

THE BIG STORY: Rolling Stones Headed To Court

More than 60 years into their legendary history, the Rolling Stones are facing a new copyright lawsuit claiming their 2020 single “Living in a Ghost Town” — a rare new song from the band — lifted material from a pair of little-known earlier tracks.

The case was filed by songwriter Sergio Garcia Fernandez (stage name Angelslang), who claims that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards “misappropriated many of the recognizable and key protected elements” from his 2006 song “So Sorry” as well as his 2007 tune “Seed of God.”

In any copyright lawsuit, an accuser needs to show that the alleged infringer had “access” to their work in order to copy it. Oftentimes, they can show that a song was simply so widely-available – millions of streams, constant airplay, etc. – that the defendant obviously heard it.

But in Angelslang’s case, the two songs each list fewer than 1000 listens on Spotify. So what does he claim? That he directly gave a demo CD to “an immediate family member” of Jagger, who then allegedly confirmed in writing that the songs had “a sound The Rolling Stones would be interested in using.”

To get Billboard’s entire breakdown of the new lawsuit – including the actual legal complaint filed in court against the Stones – read the full story here.

Other top stories this week…

PRINCE ESTATE v. MORRIS DAY UPDATE – One year after Morris Day accused the Prince estate of trying to “rewrite history” by “taking my name away,” I took a deep dive into the current status of the dispute. The results: The trademark dispute over “Morris Day & The Time” has seemingly been worked out, but key issues about Day’s copyrights in two of The Time’s biggest songs remain unresolved.

OFFSPRING OFF THE HOOK – A Los Angeles judge handed The Offspring a victory in its long legal battle with former drummer Ron Welty, who claimed he was owed millions more in profits from the veteran punk band’s $35 million catalog sale.

EARTH, WIND, FIRE & LITIGATION – The famed R&B act filed a trademark lawsuit against a rival group that’s been performing under the name “Earth Wind & Fire Legacy Reunion,” calling them imposters who are infringing the band’s trademarks to “mislead the ticket-buying public.”

SHEERAN SHOWDOWN LOOMS – With a trial set for next month over whether Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” infringed Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” a federal judge weighed in on two key pre-trial questions – whether a live performance of Gaye’s song will occur in the courtroom, and whether an infamous YouTube clip could be played for jurors.

FALLOUT FROM ROCHESTER DISASTER – Authorities in Rochester revoked the operating license from the Main Street Armory, the western New York concert venue in which a deadly stampede occurred last week after a performance by GloRilla and Finesse2tymes. No civil lawsuits have yet been filed by victims or their families, but criminal and regulatory investigations are already under way.

XXXTENTACION VERDICT WATCHJury deliberations are continuing in the trial of three men accused of murdering rising rap star XXXTentacion during a 2018 robbery outside a Florida motorcycle shop. The trial, which wrapped up on March 10, was sometimes overshadowed by efforts by defense attorneys to involve Drake in the proceedings. All three defendants face mandatory life sentences if convicted.

Bill Donahue