Business News Legal

Miley Cyrus given time to seek dismissal of reggae lyric plagiarism case

By | Published on Tuesday 24 July 2018

Miley Cyrus

The judge overseeing a copyright dispute between Miley Cyrus and Jamaican dancehall artist Flourgon has put the discovery phase of the proceedings on hold while lawyers for the former have a good go at getting the whole case dismissed without a full hearing.

Flourgon, real name Michael May, sued Cyrus back in March claiming that her 2013 single ‘We Can’t Stop’ infringed 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”.

The lawsuit noted the popularity of ‘We Run Things’ within reggae and dancehall circles. It then referenced an interview with songwriting duo Rock City – co-writers on the Cyrus song – in which they talked about how reggae culture had influenced ‘We Can’t Stop’. May’s legal filing then argued that Cyrus’s team had taken reggae influences – including his lyric – as part of a plan to reinvent the pop star’s image.

Lawyers for Cyrus, her songwriting partners and her label Sony Music – all defendants on the case – argue that the single line of May’s song isn’t substantial enough to enjoy copyright protection. And even if it is, the use of the lyric in the Cyrus song constitutes ‘fair use’ under US copyright law. And even if it doesn’t, May’s track ‘We Run Things’ isn’t in itself original, so he doesn’t have grounds to sue.

Team Cyrus are hoping that those three arguments are enough to have the whole case thrown out without proceeding to a full hearing. But judge Robert Lehrburger isn’t sure, reckoning that at least some of those arguments would probably need more scrutiny.

Nevertheless, he said he’d put the discovery phase of the dispute on hold so that Cyrus’s reps can submit their full motion to dismiss. According to Law360, Lehrburger stated: “At this point, I’m going to stay discovery and allow the motion to be filed”.