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Judge mainly sides with Lizzo in ongoing Truth Hurts copyright battle

By | Published on Thursday 29 April 2021


Lizzo has had another win in her ongoing legal battle with some former collaborators who claim that they were co-writers of her hit ‘Truth Hurts’. Although those collaborators could still push for a cut of the money generated by that song.

Justin Raisen, Jeremiah Raisen and Yves Rothman all collaborated with Lizzo, real name Melissa Jefferson, back in 2017. During that collaboration, a song called ‘Healthy’ was written that contained the lyric “I did a DNA test, turns out I’m 100% that bitch”. Although the track was never released, that distinctive line subsequently appeared in ‘Truth Hurts’ when it was released later the same year.

Once ‘Truth Hurts’ started gaining new popularity in 2019, 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’, because it lifted from the earlier song.

Off 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.

In August last year, the judge hearing the case made a summary judgement that mainly favoured Jefferson. The judge concluded that – even if you accepted that the Raisens and Rothman co-wrote ‘Healthy’ and that ‘Truth Hurts’ was a derivation of that song (both things that the Jefferson side dispute) – it did not automatically follow that the Raisens and Rothman were co-writers and co-owners of Jefferson’s hit.

However, the Raisens and Rothman were allowed to resubmit their complaint and – as expected – when they did, rather than talking about ‘Truth Hurts’ being a derivation of ‘Healthy’, they focused on the idea that the sessions that resulted in the latter song were actually part of the creative process for the former. Therefore they co-wrote ‘Truth Hurts’.

However, the judge has now rejected the amended complaint. She wrote: “Although the [amended complaint] is stripped of all statements that ‘Truth Hurts’ copied or was derived from ‘Healthy’, counterclaimants continue to allege the same underlying facts that indicate ‘Healthy’ was a standalone song and not an incomplete, partial contribution”.

“Specifically”, she went on, “counterclaimants allege that, after Lizzo recorded ‘Healthy’, Justin Raisen ‘stayed up all night’ polishing the song before soliciting feedback on it from the group. Raisen and Lizzo also held a second recording session to further fine-tune the song before suggesting that her management team include it on her upcoming EP”.

Referencing the producer who was also involved in the ‘Healthy’ sessions, Ricky Reed, she continued: “A representative from Reed’s company stated that, at the time, ‘Healthy’ ‘had a shot’ of being included on Lizzo’s upcoming EP. These allegations suggest that ‘Healthy’ was, and was intended to be, a final product”.

Although that’s another win for Jefferson, the case is not yet over. Most of the things the Raisens and Rothman asked for in their amended complaint have been dismissed, but one claim still stands – that being the demand for “an accounting of revenues from the use of ‘Healthy’ in ‘Truth Hurts'”, based back on the idea that the latter track was a derivation of or borrowed from the former.

A legal rep for Jefferson’s collaborators honed in on that fact, telling Law360 that “our clients will get paid”. He added: “The facts are simple: ‘Truth Hurts’ would not exist without the substantial musical contributions of our clients. Judge Gee’s dismissal … does not change this fact. Nor does the ruling prevent our clients from receiving their fair share of Lizzo’s profits from the song, which is their explicit right under the Copyright Act”.