In the lawsuit filed on 13 March 2018 in the Southern District of New York , May alleges that Cyrus’ 2013 smash hit We Can’t Stop borrows from his 1988 song We Run Things. May’s song was released four years before Cyrus was born.
In particular May’s song contains the line, “We run things, things no run we” and Cyrus’ song contains the similar line, “We run things, things don’t run we.” May alleges “With purposeful knowledge and intent, Defendants unlawfully misappropriated Plaintiff May’s original, unique and creative lyrical phraseology in order to establish an overarching and pervasive theme for ‘We Can’t Stop,’”
TheWrap reports that the lawsuit also argues that Cyrus’ song is “largely rooted in Caribbean musical influence” and features “a theme of defiant audaciousness in the realm of self-discovery and self-governance. The entire theme of ‘We Can’t Stop’ would be hollow in sound and impact, and would fail to achieve … success without the unique thrust of authenticity and the substantially similar theme of/provided by Plaintiff May’s original, protected content.”
May obtained a certificate of copyright registration for his song We Run Things in November 2017 from the US Copyright Office. He claims that his song has been “a favourite for lovers of reggae music worldwide”.
May is seeking an injunction to halt sales and further performances of the song, costs and damages against the named defendants.
May is far from the first to attempt to claim ownership of lyrics. Readers will recall Taylor Swift’s previous attempts to fight off copyright infringement claims with some success with her lyrics being described as too brief, unoriginal and uncreative to warrant copyright protection.
Case: Michael May v Destiny Hope Cyrus et al [Filed March 13, 2018; Case Number 1:2018cv02238]
Source credits: IPWatchdog