Yikes. Miley Cyrus and her label, RCA Records, were just slammed with a $300 million copyright infringement lawsuit from Jamaican songwriter Michael May because of her 2013 hit track, “We Can’t Stop.” Michael — who goes by the stage name Flourgon — said Miley’s song is way too similar to his musical work, “We Run Things,” which was recorded nearly 30 years ago.
The suit was filed on March 13, 2018, in federal court in New York. Micheal claimed Miley’s use of the phrase, “We run things. Things don’t run we,” is exactly like the phrase he created in 1988, “We run things. Things no run we.”
The complaint stated that without Michael’s original phrase or influence, “the entire theme of ‘We Can’t Stop’ would be hollow in sound and impact.” Not only that but the suit also said, “[Cyrus’ song] owes the basis of its chart-topping popularity and its highly-lucrative success to plaintiff May’s protected, unique, creative, and original content.”
In addition to coming after Miley and RCA, Michael is also suing other writers and producers that worked on the song — namely, Theron and Timothy Thomas and Michael Len Williams II aka Mike WiLL Made-It. The suit referenced a 2015 interview with Theron where he said, “We incorporate Caribbean culture because that’s who we are and that’s the base of our creativity.” Michael believes this was a direct call to the influence he had on Miley and her songwriters.
So what is he hoping to achieve, besides collecting a lump sum of money? Michael wants to stop Miley’s song from being sold, distributed, or performed and his lawyers believe that $300 million would be “reasonable compensation.” It’s unclear if he’ll ever see any of that money, though.
Jeff Peretz, an assistant arts professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, told CNN, “I think they’re just throwing a shot in the dark. If she’s influenced by this and likes the way it sounds and wants to use any of these tropes in her music, they’re all fair game.” Miley nor any of the others on the lawsuit have commented.