Who Owns Truth Hurts?

Robins Kaplan LLP

Robins Kaplan LLP

Sometimes the truth hurts – but what is the truth here?

On October 23, Melissa Jefferson, professionally known as Lizzo, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court in Los Angeles seeking a declaratory judgment that Justin and Jeremiah Raisen and Yves Rothman, songwriters and producers, took no part in writing her chart-topping hit, “Truth Hurts.” The Raisen brothers allegedly “came out of the woodwork” with “illegitimate” claims that they co-own a piece of the recording, the suit claims. Rothman similarly lodged his “own copycat claim” against Lizzo.

Last week, the songwriting brothers, Justin and Jeremiah, accused Lizzo of denying them credit for the song. The brothers claim to co-own “Truth Hurts” because they were part of a songwriting session in April 2017 that spurred the popular line starting with “I just took a DNA test.” But Lizzo claims the Raisens did not “write any part of the material in question” nor “come up with the idea of including the lyric in the unreleased demo.” She further claims that the brothers even assured her earlier this year in writing that they were making no claims of ownership to the work. As a result of the brothers’ ownership claims, Lizzo had apparently been prevented in certain instances from licensing the song to third parties.

Rothman, who also attended the April 2017 writing session, recently made a formal demand that he was one of the writers of the unreleased demo, and claims that the released work, “Truth Hurts,” infringes the “supposed copyright in that unreleased work.” This is all despite the fact that, according to Lizzo, Rothman has never “once contended that he was entitled to any share” of the song in the more than two years since “Truth Hurts” was released. Lizzo denies Rothman’s claims, stating, among other things that “Rothman did not write any part of the material in question” and “he did not help [her] decide how to sing the lyric in the unreleased demo.”

Lizzo seeks a declaration that defendants have no ownership rights in the work, any rights to any sums of money earned by her or anyone else in connection with “Truth Hurts” and a declaration that “Truth Hurts” does not infringe any copyright interest purportedly held by Rothman in an unreleased demo song.

The truth always comes out, so stayed tuned.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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