In Serova v. Sony Music Entertainment, the Supreme Court today held that an action alleging violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law and Consumers Legal Remedies Act in the marketing of a music album cannot be sidelined by First Amendment protections for noncommercial speech. The lawsuit claimed that vocals by a Michael Jackson imitator were misleadingly billed as being by Jackson himself.
Stating that “[t]he First Amendment has long coexisted with no-fault false advertising laws,” the court’s unanimous opinion by Justice Martin Jenkins said, “We recognize artistic works such as albums, in some instances, enjoy robust First Amendment protections, but that does not turn all marketing of such works into noncommercial speech, and it does not do so in this case.”
The parties recently agreed to settle the case. (See here.) The court filed its decision anyway, stating, “Whether or not the yet-to-be-approved settlement moots the parties’ dispute, we render this opinion ‘[i]n light of the important issues presented.’ ”