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Judge dismisses a key claim in copyright case over Lizzo’s Truth Hurts

By | Published on Monday 17 August 2020


A judge in the US last week dismissed a key copyright claim being made against Lizzo by three of her former collaborators. However, the wider dispute regarding her song ‘Truth Hurts’ continues.

Lizzo, real name Melissa Jefferson, collaborated with Justin Raisen, Jeremiah Raisen and Yves Rothman in 2017. And while using the Raisens’ studio, she wrote a song called ‘Healthy’ that included the lyric, “I did a DNA test, turns out I’m 100% that bitch”. Although ‘Healthy’ was never released, that line then appeared in ‘Truth Hurts’ when it was released later the same year.

After the latter track gained new popularity last year, the Raisens and Rothman claimed – initially on social media – that they had co-written ‘Healthy’, and that therefore they should also have a co-write credit on ‘Truth Hurts’.

On the back of that social media chatter, Jefferson went legal, seeking court confirmation that the Raisens and Rothman had no copyright claim over her late-in-the-day hit. They then countersued seeking court confirmation to the contrary.

Last week’s ruling on the case favoured Jefferson. The judge rejected the logic presented by the Raisens and Rothman that, because they were co-authors of ‘Healthy’, and ‘Truth Hurts’ is a derivative work of ‘Healthy’, they must be a co-author of ‘Truth Hurts’.

It’s worth noting that there remains a dispute over whether or not the Raisens and Rothman actually co-authored ‘Healthy’, and over whether or not ‘Truth Hurts’ is a derivative work of the earlier song. However, what last week’s ruling stated was – even if you accepted both those things – that doesn’t automatically make the Raisens and Rothman co-authors of ‘Truth Hurts’.

However, there is an alternative argument that the Raisens and Rothman could now make. That being that the recording sessions that resulted in ‘Healthy’ and the recording sessions that resulted in ‘Truth Hurts’ were, in fact, all part of the same creative process.

And therefore that the Raisens and Rothman were involved in the early stages of that creative process, which is what gets them their co-author status on the hit.

Last week’s ruling gave the three men the right to re-file an amended complaint, and they are now expected to do so using that alternative argument. Which is why a legal rep for the Raisens and Rothman dubbed last week’s court decision “a temporary setback”.

Said legal rep, Lawrence Y Iser, also told reporters: “We will be submitting amended counterclaims, which will address the court’s concerns with our original pleading. We know the truth may hurt, but Lizzo will not be able to continue denying our clients’ substantial contributions to the Grammy-winning song for much longer”.