Young Thug Trial Chaos, Bad Bunny Baseball Battle, Phish Bong Drama & More Top Music Law News

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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: Young Thug’s trial in Atlanta descends into chaos as the judge orders the rapper’s lawyer thrown into jail; Bad Bunny’s battle with Major League Baseball players’ union gets messier; Madison Square Garden bans a Phish fan over the “first bong hit” at the Las Vegas Sphere; and much more.

THE BIG STORY: Young Thug Trial Goes Off The Rails

Young Thug’s gang trial in Atlanta was already in uncharted territory – it’s now the longest trial in Georgia state history, with dozens of witnesses still scheduled to testify and no clear end in sight until 2025. But on Monday (June 10), it crossed over into the realm of the truly bizarre. 

It started when Young Thug’s attorney, Brian Steel, said he had learned of an allegedly improper secret meeting between Judge Ural Glanville, state prosecutors, and a key witness. It ended with Steel being escorted into custody by a court officer. In between, the attorney and the judge engaged in an extraordinary back-and-forth — broadcast across the internet in real-time — over illegal leaks, witness coercion, and potential jail time. 

“I’m going to give you five minutes. If you don’t tell me who it is, I’m going to put you in contempt,” Glanville said at one point. “I don’t need five minutes,” Steel fired back. 

When the dust settled, Glanville had sentenced Steel to 20 days in jail, to be served over 10 consecutive weekends. Capping off the surreal proceedings? Steel demanded to serve that time in jail right alongside Young Thug, who has been locked up for two years as the case drags on.  

Go read our full story here, and stay tuned at Billboard for more developments — Steel has already filed an appeal, and something tells us this isn’t the last we’ll hear about that secret meeting… 

Other top stories this week…

BAD MONEY? Major League Baseball’s players’ union fired back hard at a lawsuit claiming it had discriminated against Bad Bunny’s sports agency Rimas Sports — explaining (in great detail) how the company had, in fact, been penalized due to “egregious and systemic” violations of union rules against offering gifts to prospective clients. According to the union, those illegal “inducements” included a $200,000 interest-free loan to one ballplayer, and VIP tickets to Bad Bunny concerts to others. 

PHISH FUED – A Phish fan who bragged about taking the “first bong hit to ever be ripped” in the Las Vegas Sphere — and posted a viral video of him doing so — received a letter from Madison Square Garden Entertainment’s lawyers permanently banning him from the venue and all other MSG facilities. Though MSG initially stuck by the decision, the company later backtracked after the story made headlines: “There was a breakdown in our process due to a change in personnel which resulted in the letter being sent inadvertently,” said a Sphere Entertainment spokeswoman in a statement. “This customer is not banned from our properties.” 

KBJ x QUEEN BEY – When the U.S. Supreme Court’s nine justices released their annual financial disclosures, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson reported a cooler-than-usual line item: that Beyoncé had personally gifted her four concert tickets. 

‘ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT’ Travis Scott asked a federal judge to end a copyright lawsuit accusing him of using unlicensed samples on Utopia and Astroworld from “Bitches Reply,” an oft-sampled 1992 track that’s previously been used by Lil Wayne, Cardi B, Kid Cudi and others. In their filing, Scott’s lawyers argued the only material the rapper allegedly copied were the words “alright, alright, alright” — and that such “stock phrases” do not have “even the minimal creativity required for copyright protection.” 

MADONNA CASE *NOT* SETTLED – A bizarre exchange took place in one of the several lawsuits filed against Madonna over claims that she broke the law by delaying the starts of her concerts. Days after news of a settlement was filed in court by the plaintiff’s attorneys, lawyers for Madonna and Live Nation emphatically denied that any such deal had been reached and told a judge they “will not be harassed into settlement.” The case remains very much pending. 

MOTOWN SINGER SUES HOSPITAL – Alexander Morris, the current lead singer of the legendary Motown group The Four Tops, is suing a Detroit-area hospital over allegations that staffers “assumed he was mentally ill” and put him in a straitjacket after he informed them that he was a famous musician. Morris claims he was sent for a psychiatric evaluation and deprived of necessary treatment for his heart infraction — until, that is, his wife showed up and staffers watched a video of him performing at the Grammys. 

COUNTERFEIT COUNTERATTACK – With the problem of bootleg music merch continuing to grow, Billboard’s Steve Knopper chatted with two companies that are fighting back using technological weapons like artificial intelligence, image-matching software and automated takedown notices.

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