This is the question a court in the Southern District of New York will be dealing with in a recent lawsuit filed against Destiny Hope, a/k/a Miley Cyrus and others.  Does Miley’s chart topping 2013 hit song “We Can’t Stop” infringe on a song written by Michael May?

Jamaican songwriter and deejay Michael May goes by the stage name “Flourgon.”  This name was given to him because of his love of dumplings.  Specifically, Flourgon alleges that Miley and others, including her co-songwriters and record company, infringed on the copyright he has for the song “We Run Things.”  In the complaint, Flourgon alleges that  Miley’s co-writers acknowledge the Caribbean musical influence behind Miley’s song.

Trying to shake her sweet Disney image (i.e., Hannah Montana), Miley came out with her fourth album with the edgy song “We Can’t Stop.”  The sexy star in the racy video for the song stands in stark contrast with her wholesome Disney image.

The lawsuit highlights Miley’s lyrics “We run things/ Things don’t run we.”   Flourgon asserts that his “unique, original and creative lyrical phrasing ‘We run things, Things no run we’ is not syntactically correct, and is a conspicuous departure from proper English grammar with its improper sentence construction such that it is noticeably unique, creative and original thereby mandating further inquiry, which should have been conducted by Defendants . . .”

In addition to damages, Flourgon seeks injunctive relief to prevent Miley from selling or performing the song. Miley and the others will be filing an answer denying the allegations or another pleading in the coming weeks.

You can compare the lyrics of Miley’s song by looking at the lyrics here versus Flourgon’s song here. What do you think?

  • James Mahoney

    As usual, I’m good-naturedly baffled by how thin a slice of a copyright can be and still be actionable.

    As I recall, the estimable Chuck Berry took the Beatles to task (and won) over their use of “Here come ol’ flat-top, he come goovin’ up slowly” (and I hope Chuck’s estate doesn’t sue me for typing that line).

    Equally baffling to me at the time was George Harrison getting sued (and losing) because My Sweet Lord infringed on He’s So Fine. To this tin ear, and many others, the response to the news of the suit was “huh? They don’t sound anything alike.”

    Then a good musician friend of mine, who had served as an expert witness in musical infringement cases, educated me about the underlying similarities between those two tunes. Despite being a huge Beatles fan himself, he came down on the side of He’s So Fine in the argument.

    So, will Flourgon prevail? Wouldn’t be surprised…

    • Thank you for sharing. It is an interesting area of the law.