Miley Cyrus & Dancehall Legend Flourgon Settles $300 Million Copyright Lawsuit
January 6, 2020
Flourgon proved to American singer Miley Cyrus, that the lyrics to his 1988 Dancehall classic “We Run Things,” was no fluke but that he meant every word that he penned at the time, and the American singer has had no choice, but to yield to the 53-year-old Jamaican.
After almost two years, Miley Cyrus decided to settle the US$300-million (J$40-billion) copyright infringement lawsuit, which was filed by the Jamaican songwriter and deejay, a landmark case which has been hailed as a massive win for Jamaican artistes and lyricists. According to Reuters, the sum of the settlement has not been disclosed, but attorneys for Flourgon say the presiding judge, in an earlier hearing, “had reduced expectations of a US$300-million payout.”
In March 2018, Flourgon filed a US$300 million copyright infringement lawsuit against Miley Cyrus, claiming she plagiarized the line “we run things, things no run we” from his 1998 track “We run tings” and embedded it in her 2013 single ‘We Can’t Stop.’
In December, while presenting his keynote speech at the launch of Rebel Salute, Flourgon’s New-York-based Jamaican-born attorney Stephen Drummond had said his legal team is optimistic about the matter and was looking forward to an amicable settlement, which ‘will see all sides being pleased.’
The lawsuit was filed by Flourgon, whose given name is Michael May, in the US District Court of Manhattan, New York and had accused Cyrus and her label RCA Records, of misappropriating his material, including pirating the lyrics, “We run things, things no run we,” which she twisted to ‘We run things, things don’t run we.” Produced by Redman International, We Run Things was the biggest Dancehall song in 1988 but was not registered by Flourgon until 2017.
Miley had failed to seek consent from Flourgon, the original copyright owner, or his agents such as his record company or music publishing company, a breach of sampling rules under the World Intellectual Property Rights.
However, in her defense, Miley Cyrus and her team argued that Flourgon’s case was invalid because, according to them, “a single lyric is not protected by copyright, that Cyrus’s use of it was fair, and that the deejay’s lyric in We Run Things was not original.”
However, Flourgon’s legal team had counter-argued that “while ‘we run things, things no run we’ became commonly used in Jamaica, the phrase which almost immediately becomes a part of popular culture, originated with Flourgon who had created the phrase ‘under contention in 1981′, at the age of 16, while associated with the Rambo Mango sound system, and Miley infringed on the intellectual property of the song.
Flourgon’s lawyers also contended that his lines are embedded in the chorus, which is the most important part of Cyrus’ song and that in addition to the words, she followed the theme of his song, “which is about being in self-control, not caring what anyone thinks and being determined.”
The lawyers also said the tour for the 2013 Bangerz album, on which “We Can’t Stop” is featured, amassed $63 million, with other income streams not being taken into consideration and that the song is one of three that Cyrus performs consistently, even while promoting other projects.
On Friday, Reuters news agency reported that Flourgon, Cyrus, Sony, and other defendants filed a joint stipulation in Manhattan federal court, effectively ending the lawsuit with prejudice, meaning it cannot be re-filed.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer on Friday, a member of Flourgon’s legal team, Irwine Clare, said the settlement was a testament to the importance of “copyrighting work and maneuvering legal muscle.”
“It’s a good thing for Jamaican artistes who have long been abused of their intellectual property `rights, and this verdict demonstrates that when there is effective support and the expertise assembled, good can happen,” Clare told the newspaper, adding that: “Jamaicans have to bring a level of professionalism to the table. We can’t just do a ‘t’ ing.’ We need to be better at our craft.”
He also said Flourgon’s lawyers would make an official comment at a later date.