Lizzo (full name Melissa Jefferson) has scored another major victory in her much-publicized “Truth Hurts” copyright infringement lawsuit against brothers Justin and Jeremiah Raisen as well as Justin “Yves” Rothman.
The underlying legal confrontation kicked off back in October of 2019, when Lizzo sought a judicial declaration that the trio hadn’t helped her to author “Truth Hurts,” which initially released in September of 2017 and debuted as a radio single in 2019.
At the time, Lizzo specified that the individuals were threatening to publicly claim that they deserved songwriting credits on the popular work – unless they received compensation, that is – chiefly because they had co-authored the 33-year-old artist’s “Healthy” demo months before “Truth Hurts” became available to fans.
It was also alleged that Jeremiah Raisen had insisted Lizzo add the meme-inspired “100 percent” lyric to the former song; it ultimately appeared in “Truth Hurts,” and Mina Lioness, who penned the line, eventually received credit as a songwriter.
The defendants then fired back with five counterclaims, maintaining that Lizzo had “copied substantial, significant original creative expression from ‘Healthy’ to create ‘Truth Hurts.’” But the presiding judge in August of 2020 dismissed one of these actions because “even if counter-claimants are co-authors of ‘Healthy,’ they have not alleged any ownership interest in ‘Truth Hurts,’ which they claim is a derivative work of ‘Healthy.’”
These individuals and their legal team indicated that they would promptly refile said counterclaims, shifting the argument away from the idea that “Truth Hurts” had been ripped off “Healthy” and towards the concept that the former track resulted from a continuous creative process, beginning with the parties’ work on the latter effort.
The Raisen brothers and Rothman formally refiled in September of 2020, and Lizzo that same month moved to dismiss all but the second of their counterclaims. Now, Judge Dolly Gee has approved the Detroit-born artist’s request and dismissed four of the five counterclaims with prejudice.
Explaining her ruling, Judge Gee reiterated that “to establish co-ownership, a party must show that it made an independently copyrightable contribution and qualifies as an author of the alleged joint work.”
Moreover, per “a three-factor test” introduced in 2000’s Aalmuhammed v. Lee, this determination boils down to an alleged author’s creative control over the work in question, whether alleged “coauthors made objective manifestations of a shared intent to be coauthors,” and “whether the audience appeal of the work turns on both contributions.”
On the control front, the presiding judge relayed that the purported “Truth Hurts” co-writers “allege no facts demonstrating that they exercised any control over the creation of Truth Hurts independent from their contributions to Healthy.”
And while “the ‘100%’ line may indeed be a copyrightable contribution,” the aforementioned Aalmuhammed determined “that an individual can make a ‘copyrightable contribution’ and yet not become a joint author of the whole work.”
In terms of intent, the counterclaimants planned “to contribute the line and melody to the track Healthy, not to a future, undefined work” and “have alleged no facts to indicate that, at the time of the addition of the ‘100%’ line to Truth Hurts, there was an objective manifestation of shared intent to make the Raisens joint authors.”
Finally, that Lizzo decided to give a “Truth Hurts” co-writing credit to songwriter Jesse Saint John – who participated in the “Healthy” sessions – “while excluding the Raisens actually indicates the opposite of what Counterclaimants argue it does: that there was no shared intent for the Raisens to be joint authors of Truth Hurts.”
Judge Gee also granted Lizzo and her counsel 14 days to respond to the sole remaining counterclaim, seeking “an accounting of revenues from the use of Healthy in Truth Hurts.”