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Lizzo fires back against “opportunistic and legally bankrupt” claims of her former collaborators in Truth Hurts copyright dispute

By | Published on Tuesday 24 March 2020


The tough talking continues in the latest legal filing in the ongoing dispute between Lizzo and three of her former collaborators over the ownership of her hit ‘Truth Hurts’. The musician requests that the court dismiss those collaborators’ “opportunistic and legally bankrupt claim” that they jointly authored and therefore co-own her song.

Legal papers from those collaborators, she reckons, “make abundantly clear what Lizzo has maintained from the start: neither Justin Raisen nor Jeremiah Raisen nor Yves Rothman had any involvement in the creation of ‘Truth Hurts’. In this circumstance, black letter law is clear that defendants cannot co-own, or seek unjustified credit as co-authors of, ‘Truth Hurts’ – a work they did not create”.

What isn’t disputed is that, in early 2017, Lizzo – real name Melissa Jefferson – spent some time in the studio owned by the Raisen brothers – Justin and Jeremiah – alongside some other music-makers, including Justin ‘Yves’ Rothman. Among other things, they collaborated on a demo track called ‘Healthy’ which included the line “I did a DNA test, turns out I’m 100% that bitch”. That line was then later also used in ‘Truth Hurts’.

The Raisens argue that that key lyric – and the way Jefferson sings it – was the result of a joint effort in the studio that day. And because the lyric was then shifted into ‘Truth Hurts’, they reckon that means they and Rothman co-authored a crucial element of Jeffersen’s subsequent hit. Or, alternatively, that ‘Truth Hurts’ is a derivative work of ‘Healthy’, which means Jeffersen should have agreed a deal with her co-writers on the latter before releasing the former, which would likely have included a royalty share.

It was Jefferson who went legal first after the Raisens posted a statement about their ‘Truth Hurts’ dispute online. She insists that – although the ‘100% that bitch’ line was conceived in the Raisens’ studio – neither they nor Rothman were involved in its creation. She also argues that the Raisens previously agreed they had no claim over the ‘Truth Hurts’ copyright, and that they only changed their tune once it became a late-in-the-day hit as a result of her rising fame, and some TikTok and Netflix support.

The Raisens then filed legal papers last month presenting a very different version of events. They explained why the ‘100% that bitch’ lyric was definitely a team effort. And, they insisted, they’d never conceded that they had no copyright claim over ‘Truth Hurts’. Among other things, they included text messages sent by close Jefferson collaborator Ricky Reed the day ‘Truth Hurts’ topped the Billboard Hot 100 last year, in which he encouraged Justin Raisen to continue seeking a resolution regarding ownership of the hit.

In her new legal filing, Jefferson again argues that the Raisens had no involvement in the creation of the ‘100% that bitch’ lyric. And, with that in mind, she argues that – even if the producers do have a claim to co-ownership of ‘Healthy’ (which she disputes too) – there is no logical or legal reason why that means they have a stake in ‘Truth Hurts’.

Her new legal filing states: “[‘Healthy’] contains a lyrical line – ‘I just took a DNA test, I’m 100% that bitch’ – that these defendants admittedly did not write, and which Lizzo chose to sing in a melody which these defendants do not claim to have created. Defendants nevertheless claim to co-own and to have co-authored ‘Truth Hurts’ because Lizzo also chose to sing that line, in that melody, in her song ‘Truth Hurts’ too”.

“Defendants are wrong that they can co-own ‘Truth Hurts’ because [1] defendants allegedly co-own the unreleased demo and [2] ‘Truth Hurts’ contains the same DNA test line and melody as contained in that unreleased work”, the filing goes on. Citing past precedent in the Ninth Circuit appeals court, it adds “a party’s alleged joint authorship of a first work does not make that party a joint author of a second work that uses material from the first”.

As for the dispute over whether or not the Raisens had previously waived any claim to the ‘Truth Hurts’ copyright, the new legal papers state that the producers, “acting through their sophisticated music representatives, expressly withdrew their claims in multiple writings. Defendants have literally nothing to say about this overwhelming written evidence except for a puzzling denial of knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief regarding this clear conduct”.

Jefferson takes issue with many other allegations made in the Raisens’ legal filing, including – as noted – the ownership status of ‘Healthy’. However, she says that she will “address and put to bed these other issues at the appropriate stage of this case”. But her former collaborators’ biggest claim – to co-ownership of ‘Truth Hurts’ – “is ripe for dismissal now”.

We await to see if the Raisens respond in a similarly bombastic fashion.