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Miley Cyrus criticises magistrate judge’s recommendation in song-theft case

By | Published on Friday 1 March 2019

Miley Cyrus

A magistrate judge got it all wrong when he considered a song-theft lawsuit that has been filed against Miley Cyrus, reckons Miley Cyrus. The more senior district judge overseeing the case should therefore ignore his colleague’s recommendations and dismiss the whole case.

This lawsuit is being pursued by Jamaican dancehall artist Flourgon, real name Michael May. He sued Cyrus in March last year claiming that her 2013 single ‘We Can’t Stop’ infringes his 1998 track ‘We Run Things’. The dispute centres on a single lyric, with May arguing that Cyrus and her songwriting pals lifted his line “we run things, things no run we” and tweaked it to go: “we run things, things don’t run we”.

Lawyers for Cyrus and co responded with at least three arguments as to why they felt that May’s copyright claim was invalid: ie that a single lyric isn’t protected by copyright, that Cyrus’s use of it was ‘fair use’, and that May’s lyric in ‘We Run Things’ isn’t in itself original.

But last month, magistrate judge Robert Lehrburger said that, while the arguments presented by the Cyrus side were compelling, he felt that May’s case still needed to go before a jury and could therefore not be dismissed on summary judgement.

Lehrburger was only making a recommendation on the dispute, which district judge Lewis Kaplan can choose to follow or ignore. Both sides have an opportunity to respond to the magistrate judge’s report first, which is why Team Cyrus have been dissing his conclusions this week.

According to Law 360, a legal filing from the Cryus side argues that Lehrburger initially noted that the two songs are “substantially different”, but then narrowed his focus to the single shared lyric. But, they argue, “simply listening to the songs mandates the conclusion that plaintiff’s ‘Run’ and defendants’ ‘Stop’ are not substantially similar as a matter of law under any applicable test”.

We await to see how judge Kaplan responds.