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Music Industry Takes Sides After Scooter Braun Acquires Taylor Swift’s Masters

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  • Scooter Braun acquired Taylor Swift’s music catalog in a deal that Swift called “her worst case scenario.”
  • In a blog post, Swift said she did not learn of the purchase until the news broke Sunday morning and accused Braun of bullying her through artists he represents like Kanye West and Justin Bieber.
  • Celebrities like Halsey and Todrick Hall have taken Swift’s side and supported her for standing up for herself. 
  • While others, including Bieber, Demi Lovato, and Yael Cohen Braun, say Swift is attacking Braun without reason and is lying about her knowledge of the acquisition.

Prominent voices in the music industry are taking sides in a fued between Taylor Swift and music manager Scooter Braun after news broke that Braun now owns the pop stars’ masters.

On Sunday, it was announced that Braun’s Ithaca Holdings label would be acquiring Big Machine Label Group. Braun is the massive talent producer behind the likes of Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. Big Machine, which is run by Scott Borchetta, holds the majority of Swift’s catalog.

The “Reputation” singer switched over to Universal Records at the end of 2018. Everything after that, which currently includes two singles and an upcoming album, is in her hands there. The six other albums she has fully released to date, however, still belong to Big Machine, and now to Braun. 

After the news of this sale, Swift penned a letter on Tumblr addressing Braun, as well as her decision to leave Big Machine. 

“For years I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work,” Swift opened. “Instead I was given an opportunity to sign back up to Big Machine Records and ‘earn’ one album back at a time, one for every new one I turned in. I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future. I had to make the excruciating choice to leave behind my past. Music I wrote on my bedroom floor and videos I dreamed up and paid for from the money I earned playing in bars, then clubs, then arenas, then stadiums.”

She added that she had only heard of the acquisition when it was announced to the public and said that Braun was behind “incessant, manipulative bullying” she had received for years. 

“Like when Kim Kardashian orchestrated an illegally recorded snippet of a phone call to be leaked and then Scooter got his two clients together to bully me online about it,” she said in reference to an Instagram photo Justin Bieber once posted. 

Photo Via taylorswift.tumblr.com.

Swift goes on to include another instance where she felt targeted by Braun.

“Or when his client, Kanye West, organized a revenge porn music video which strips my body naked. Now Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy. Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it.” 

“This is my worst case scenario,” Swift continued. “This is what happens when you sign a deal at fifteen to someone for whom the term ‘loyalty’ is clearly just a contractual concept. And when that man says ‘Music has value’, he means its value is beholden to men who had no part in creating it.”

“When I left my masters in Scott’s hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually he would sell them,” Swift said. “Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter. Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words ‘Scooter Braun’ escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to. He knew what he was doing; they both did. Controlling a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them. In perpetuity. That means forever.”

She closes the letter by saying she is happy her future music will be in her own control, but she does not want other young artists to make the same mistake she did. 

People Speak Out in Swift’s Defense

Like almost everything Swift does, this letter blew up and divided people. Everyone and their mother has made a statement, including Selena Gomez’s mother.

According to some reports, artists like Beyonce, Harry Styles, Brendon Urie, Joe Jonas, Nicki Minaj, Selena Gomez, and Rihanna, have all unfollowed Braun on social media in support of Swift.

“Bad at Love” singer Halsey wrote a message taking Swift’s side. “She deserves to own the painstaking labor of her heart,” she wrote. 

Performer Todrick Hall, who is a close friend of Swift’s, also posted several tweets about the issue. “I know from his own mouth that he is not a Swift fan,” Hall said. 

Model Martha Hunt, who made an appearance in Swift’s star-studded “Bad Blood” video also took the singer’s side.

The hashtag #WeStandWithTaylor began trending on Twitter. Several users used it to defend Swift and argued that she should be able to hold her masters. 

There is also a petition to allow the singer to re-release her old albums on her own. Reports say that it was signed by an account under the name “Katy Perry,” Swift’s long-term foe whom she recently made public amends with. 

Screenshot of Change.Org petition signature.

Artists Defend Scooter

Others, however, are siding with Braun. Bieber posted on Instagram apologizing for the photo that Swift referenced in her Tumblr letter and said Braun had nothing to do with it. 

“One thing i know is both scooter and i love you,” the “Sorry” singer added. “I feel like the only way to resolve conflict is through communication. So banter back and fourth online i dont believe solves anything. I’m sure Scooter and i would love to talk to you and resolve any conflict, pain or or any feelings that need to be addressed. Neither scooter or i have anything negative to say about you we truly want the best for you.”

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Hey Taylor. First of all i would like to apologize for posting that hurtful instagram post, at the time i thought it was funny but looking back it was distasteful and insensitive.. I have to be honest though it was my caption and post that I screenshoted of scooter and Kanye that said “taylor swift what up” he didnt have anything to do with it and it wasnt even a part of the conversation in all actuality he was the person who told me not to joke like that.. Scooter has had your back since the days you graciously let me open up for you.! As the years have passed we haven’t crossed paths and gotten to communicate our differences, hurts or frustrations. So for you to take it to social media and get people to hate on scooter isn’t fair. What were you trying to accomplish by posting that blog? seems to me like it was to get sympathy u also knew that in posting that your fans would go and bully scooter. Anyway, One thing i know is both scooter and i love you. I feel like the only way to resolve conflict is through communication. So banter back and fourth online i dont believe solves anything. I’m sure Scooter and i would love to talk to you and resolve any conflict, pain or or any feelings that need to be addressed. Neither scooter or i have anything negative to say about you we truly want the best for you. I usually don’t rebuttal things like this but when you try and deface someone i loves character thats crossing a line..

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Another one of Braun’s clients, singer Demi Lovato, wrote in his defense on her Instagram story.

“I have dealt with bad people in this industry and Scooter is not one of them,” the former Disney darling wrote. “He’s a good man. Personally, I’m grateful he came into my life when he did. Please stop “dragging” people or bullying them. There’s enough hate in this world as it is.” 

Yael Cohen Braun, Scooter Braun’s wife, also posted a lengthy Instagram post addressing the matter. 

“You were given the opportunity to own your masters, you passed. Interesting that the man you’re so ‘grossed out’ by believed in you more than you believe in yourself,” she wrote. 

Cohen Braun claimed that despite what Swift said in her letter, the singer had already learned about the acquisition. 

“Your dad is a shareholder and was notified,” she said. “And Borchetta personally told you before this came out. So no, you didn’t find out with the world.”

She also called out Swift’s bullying claims, and said her husband is “anything but a bully.”

“Beyond that it’s easy to see that the point of putting this out was to get people to bully him,” Cohen Braun wrote, flipping the conversation and accusing Swift of being mean-spirited. “You are supposed to be a role model, but continue to model bullying.”

“He’s a manger, not God. He cannot control the actions of other humans, even ones he manages,” she added. “What you haven’t seen is what happens behind closed doors, when he has supported and stood up for you.”

Scott Borchetta Responds

On Sunday night, Borchetta addressed the situation himself. He wrote a letter on Big Machine’s site where he also said Swift should have been in-the-know prior to the news breaking. 

He said that her father, Scott Swift, was invited to a shareholders call on June 25, where the purchase was announced. He also claimed that he sent Swift a text on Saturday night. 

“I guess it might somehow be possible that her dad Scott, 13 Management lawyer Jay Schaudies (who represented Scott Swift on the shareholder calls) or 13 Management executive and Big Machine LLC shareholder Frank Bell (who was on the shareholder calls) didn’t say anything to Taylor over the prior 5 days,” he wrote. “I guess it’s possible that she might not have seen my text.  But, I truly doubt that she “woke up to the news when everyone else did”. 

He also said that before the songstress moved onto Universal Records, the deal he was working on with her at Big Machine would have involved her owning her masters. 

“100% of all Taylor Swift assets were to be transferred to her immediately upon signing the new agreement,” he said. 

He also included a photo of part of that contract. 

Source: Big Machine.

Representatives for Swift have denied that both she and her father knew about the deal ahead of time. 

“On June 25, there was a shareholder phone call that Scott Swift did not participate in due to a very strict NDA that bound all shareholders and prohibited any discussion at all without risk of severe penalty,” a spokesperson for the singer told People Magazine

“Her dad did not join that call because he did not want to be required to withhold any information from his own daughter. Taylor found out from the news articles when she woke up before seeing any text from Scott Borchetta and he did not call her in advance.” 

Singer Iggy Azalea also tweeted about the logistics of sales like these, saying even if Swift and her father knew in the days leading up, they probably did not get a say in whether or not it happened.

See what others are saying: (People) (The Hollywood Reporter) (Billboard)

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Carole Baskin Faces Defamation Suit Brought on by Family of Missing Husband

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  • “Tiger King” star Carole Baskin’s has been sued for defamation by the family of her missing husband, Don Lewis.
  • They claim Baskin is complicit in jokes about his death that appeared on the latest season of “Dancing With the Stars,” where she is currently a contestant.
  • Many believe Baskin played a part in Lewis’ disappearance. and maybe even murdered him, though Baskin has repeatedly denied this.
  • She told TMZ that any jokes about killing or murder in the show are not about Lewis and are actually about the murder-for-hire plots taken against her.

Don Lewis’s Family Sues Carole Baskin

Big Cat Rescue Founder and “Tiger King” star Carole Baskin is facing a defamation suit from the family of her missing husband, Don Lewis. 

The cat lover is on this season of “Dancing With The Stars,” but a few remarks that appeared on the show have now landed her in hot water. Lewis’ three daughters and former assistant think that Baskin has been complicit in jokes about his death that were made on the show. 

Lewis disappeared in 1997 and was legally declared dead in 2002, but the case into his disappearance is still open. After the Netflix docuseries “Tiger King” became one of the most talked about shows of the year, many who watched it became convinced that Baskin killed or hired someone to kill him. She has repeatedly denied this. 

TMZ obtained court documents that reveal what comments Lewis’ family found to be insensitive. Judges on the show joked about TikToks that reference the theory that Baskin killed Lewis. These videos use a song parodying Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage,” replacing her lyrics with “Carole Baskin, killed her husband, whacked him. Can’t convince me that it didn’t happen. Fed him to tigers, they snackin.”

Lewis’ family believes that Baskin should have spoken out against these jokes, as well as another comment made by a judge who said she “didn’t quite kill the paso double, it was kind of sedated.” Lewis’ daughters found the references to killing and sedation inappropriate. 

The suit also accuses Baskin of playing along and making jokes of her own. During an appearance on Good Morning America, Baskin said she was ready to “really kill it next week.” The family said this was yet another nod to Lewis’ disappearance and theories that she killed him. 

Responses to Suit

The Lewis Family’s lawyer, Jon Phillips, spoke to Entertainment Tonight about this lawsuit. In addition to filing for defamation, they filed for various breaches. Back in 1998, Baskin paid $50,000 in a settlement for libel and slander claims related to this.

“These exact same false statements, and additional ones, are being made again in 2020. It is malicious,” Phillips told Entertainment Tonight. He also told the outlet that Baskin’s current husband Howard is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit. 

Baskin dismissed the allegations that she was making jokes about Lewis while on “Dancing With The Stars.” She said the idea that she is referencing him when using phrases like “killing it” is a “stretch.”

Baskin told TMZ that any jokes about murder or killing on the show refer to animal abusers who have tried to kill her. Joe Exotic, the main subject of “Tiger King,” is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for a slew of charges, two of which are related to a murder-for-hire plot against Baskin. 

Ad Taken Out During DWTS

This is not the first “Dancing With The Stars”-related scuffle Baskin and Lewis’ family have had since she joined the show’s cast. During the season premiere, his three daughters, former assistant, and Phillips ran an ad about his disappearance that played in local Florida markets. It offered a $100,000 reward for information related to his case. 

“Don Lewis mysteriously disappeared in 1997. His family deserves answers,” Phillips said in the ad. “They deserve justice. Do you know who did this? Or if Carole Baskin was involved?”

While speaking with Entertainment Tonight, Lewis said that the family chose to run that ad so they could put their side of the story in the public eye. 

“Carole Baskin goes on YouTube, Facebook and does blogs every single day getting out her narrative,” Phillips explained. “It’s landed her on a major TV show, Dancing with the Stars…There was Tiger King — and it focused on the exotic animal industry — but a lot of it was about the death and disappearance of Don Lewis.”

“So [Lewis’ family] wanted their message out there. They wanted, at least locally, to counter message Carole Baskin’s, in their mind, lies and fraud,” he added.

Baskin thought the ad was nothing more than a PR move. 

“I believe their actions are just a publicity stunt, but if it helps us find Don, then that will be a huge relief,” she said in a statement emailed to CNN.

See what others are saying: (TMZ) (Entertainment Tonight) (New York Post)

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Former Ellen Staffers Criticize Talk Show Host’s Apology Monologue

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  • When Ellen DeGeneres returned to her show on Monday, she addressed the numerous reports about the toxic work environment that allegedly existed behind the scenes. She apologized to those who were affected and said changes had been made going forward. 
  • The accusations stated that issues at the show stemmed from top-level producers. Some former staffers said they faced intimidation tactics, racism, and sexual assault and harassment.
  • Her monologue addressing these allegations was praised by some, including singer Demi Lovato, who was happy to see the talk show host return to the studio.
  • However, former employees felt the apology was insincere and self-serving. Some thought that it was inappropriate for DeGeneres to make jokes during it considering the serious nature of the accusations.

Ellen Addresses Allegations

During the opening monologue of her 18th season premiere on Monday, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres addressed the bombshell accusations about the toxic work environment that allegedly existed for employees behind the scenes.

Former staffers, however, were not impressed with what she had to say. 

“How was everybody’s summer, good?” DeGeneres asked in the show’s open. “Mine was great! Super terrific!” 

This joke refers to the several reports that came out over the summer detailing allegations of intimidation tactics, racism, harassment, and more on the set of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Three top producers were also accused of sexual harassment and assault.

Following the reports, WarnerMedia opened an investigation into the show’s workplace, and those three producers were fired in August as a result. In August, the show also announced that its staff will get extra perks, including more paid time off days, birthdays off, as well as paid time for doctors appointments and family matters.

The reports pulled back the curtain on the show, which prides itself on its “Be Kind” mantra. While what went on television may have been filled with dancing and laughter, former staffers said that the toxic culture behind the scenes started with producers at the very top. While DeGeneres herself was not directly implicated in the accusations, many said that since it’s her show, it’s her responsibility.

In her first appearance since everything unfolded, DeGeneres addressed the allegations and apologized for the pain the toxic work culture on her show may have caused. 

“I learned that things happened here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously and I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected,” she said. “I know that I am in a position of privilege and power and with that comes responsibility and I take responsibility for what happens at my show.” 

She then moved on to discuss the ideas that her preachings of kindness were fake, and that she is not who she appears to be on television.

DeGeneres explained that she first began ending her show with the saying “be kind to one another” to honor a young boy named Tyler Clementi who took his life after he was bullied for being gay. She thought the message was important then and was equally important now but said being known as the ‘be kind lady’ has put her in a tricky position. 

“So let me give you some advice out there,” she joked. “If anybody’s thinking of changing their title or giving yourself a nickname, do not go with the ‘be kind’ lady. Don’t do it.”

She further added that while she is who the audience sees on TV, she is also more. She explained that she sometimes gets mad, sad, and impatient, but is working on it. She closed her monologue by saying she wants her show to be an hour of escapism for laughter and announced that her DJ Stephen “tWitch” Boss was promoted to co-executive producer.

DeGeneres posted the monologue to her Instagram page where numerous celebrities, including Demi Lovato, Ellie Kemper, and Scott Foley commented in support of the talk show host. 

“You are the person people see on TV. You are kind, generous and caring,” Lovato wrote. “This video was a perfect representation of that. I love you Ellen.”

Criticism of Monologue

Not everyone was satisfied with her remarks. BuzzFeed News, which broke a lot of the allegations about the show, spoke to current and former employees who said her monologue was insensitive and tone deaf. 

“Not only did Ellen turn my trauma, turn our traumas, into a joke, she somehow managed to make this about her,” one former staffer said. 

“When you’re talking about people who have accused her leadership of the seriousness of sexual misconduct, I don’t think it’s appropriate to have jokes in the monologue,” another claimed.

Others thought it would have been more appropriate for DeGeneres or other executives to personally reach out to those who had been affected by the toxic workplace. A current employee on the show said that while she is amazed that DeGeneres decided to address it on the show, she found the monologue to be “tactical.” She said that DeGeneres was only bringing it up to pull viewers back in for premiere week. 

TV critics also panned her monologue. Daniel D’Add wrote for Variety that her words “had a feeling of obligation, and of being over it all.” In The Daily Beast, Kevin Fallon said her speech worked harder to fix her reputation than it did to address the actual issues. 

“It’s depressing when there’s a palpable sense from people in power that the experiences of those beneath them don’t matter,” Fallon wrote, later noting that while there were flaws in the monologue, he still found the fact that she chose to address the allegations on air “monumental.”

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Entertainment Weekly) (Slate)

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Judge Sides With Nicki Minaj in Tracy Chapman Copyright Dispute

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  • Nicki Minaj recorded her song “Sorry” in 2017, which featured lyrics and melodies from Tracy Chapman’s 1988 song “Baby Can I Hold You.”
  • When Chapman repeatedly refused to give Minaj licensing permission for the track, it was dropped from Minaj’s 2018 “Queen” album. However, the song later leaked on the radio and online, prompting Chapman to file a copyright infringement lawsuit against Minaj.
  • Chapman accused her of distributing the song to a radio DJ and claimed she shouldn’t have even been allowed to record it. 
  • Minaj’s team denied distributing the song and warned that artists need to be able to experiment with existing material without worrying that they could be sued once they actually do approach that rights-holder for a license. 
  • A judge sided with Minaj Wednesday, saying her demo song falls under fair use, adding, “A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry.”

The Two Songs 

A judge has ruled in favor of Nicki Minaj on Wednesday in a copyright infringement lawsuit brought against her by fellow singer Tracy Chapman.

Music lovers and members of the industry have had a close eye on this case, believing it could have a huge impact on the music industry.

The suit stems from a 2017 song Minaj recorded featuring Nas called “Sorry.” At the time, the rapper was reportedly under the impression that the song was a remake of a one created by artist Shelly Thunder. However, she later discovered that most of the lyrics and some of the melody came from Tracy Chapman’s 1988 song “Baby Can I Hold You.”

After learning this, Minaj’s representatives reached out to Chapman for permission to use the song, but Chapman repeatedly refused. According to Chapman, she had a blanket policy against granting such permission, so in 2018, Minaj dropped her “Queen” album without the song “Sorry.”

The unreleased track then somehow made its way into the hands of a New York radio DJ known as Funkmaster Flex, who played it on air. Portions of the track also later aired on “The Breakfast Club,” before leaking online. 

The Lawsuit 

In response, Chapman filed a copyright infringement lawsuit accusing Minaj of providing the DJ with the song and arguing that Minaj shouldn’t have even been allowed to make the unauthorized track in the first place.

Both Minaj and Flex have denied that the song came from her or her authorized representatives. Instead, Flex said he received it from one of his bloggers.

Minaj’s attorneys then filed a motion warning that Chapman’s suit “should send a shiver down the spine of those concerned with the entertainment industry.” 

They argued that artists need to be free to create something based on existing material without worrying that they could be sued for experimenting once they actually do approach that rights-holder for a license. 

“Such free-flowing creativity is important to all recording artists, but particularly in hip hop,” her legal team said.

“With that category of music, a recording artist typically goes into the studio and experiments with dozens of different ‘beats’ or snippets of melodies, before hitting upon a pleasing combination.”

They also warned that ruling in Chapman’s favor “would impose a financial and administrative burden so early in the creative process that all but the most well-funded creators would be forced to abandon their visions at the outset.”

Judge’s Ruling

The latest update to the case came Wednesday when U.S. district judge Virginia A. Phillips ultimately sided with Minaj.

In her ruling, the judge said the rapper’s experimentation with the song constitutes “fair use” not copyright infringement.

“Artists usually experiment with works before seeking licenses from rights holders and rights holders typically ask to see a proposed work before approving a license,” she explained.

“Chapman has requested samples of proposed works before approving licensing requests herself because she wanted ‘to see how [her work] will be used’ before approving the license, yet Chapman argues against the very practice she maintains. A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry.”

What’s Next? 

The decision is a major win for Minaj but the dispute between the two artists isn’t exactly over. 

That’s because Chapman is still trying to argue that Minaj infringed on her song rights by sending the song to Funkmaster Flex. Chapman’s lawyers asked the judge to find that the distribution constituted copyright infringement as a matter of law, but the judge ruled that that dispute would need to go to a jury. 

That could end up being a pretty tricking case for Minaj because according to Chapman’s legal team, she reached out to Flex on August 3, 2018, offering the song. Minaj allegedly followed up a week later on August 10 saying, “You got me tonight? The song is me and Nas. Send your number.” The next day, the song was played on the radio and promoted on social media.

Minaj’s team has pushed back against some of these points, as well as other claims, still maintaining that she did not send the song.

In her decision, judge Phillips noted factual disputes concerning when Flex received the work, who exactly gave it to him, whether it was a mastered version, and more. When the trial takes place, Minaj will likely be pressed on some of this conflicting information. 

See what others are saying: (Variety) (Complex) (MarketPlace

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