​Complaining Work

​Defending Work

Michael May

“We Run Things”

Audio Recording

Miley Ray Cyrus

“We Can’t Stop”

Audio Recording


Comment by Charles Cronin

The most impressive aspect of the Complaint is its length – a meandering ramble of nearly 30 pages – and the fact that it involves a plaintiff from the nation of Jamaica represented by someone from the neighborhood of Jamaica (best known as the transfer point for the JFK shuttle).  Most of its content is irrelevant and repetitive information about the financial success ( the true motivation of this claim) of Miley Cyrus, and her handlers’ canny transformation of her public image from a tween TV character (waning popularity and profitability of “Hannah Montana”) into a more lucrative jade (resulting in the terms “skanky” and “slut” surfacing in a remarkable number of sites Google retrieves for searches for of her name).


The embarrassingly feeble basis of the infringement claim is that the disputed songs share variants of the unprotectable phrase “we run things; things don’t run us.” This expression is, apparently, commonly heard in the plaintiff’s Jamaica – no doubt a sentiment stemming from Spain and England’s centuries of colonization and enslavement on the island. But Complaint’s attempts to manufacture a claim from this insignificant commonality verge on incoherent:


¶ 53 “… In Defendants’ substantially similar lyrical and thematic version, Plaintiff May’s original, creative and unique lyrical phrase is repeated by Defendants using the literal English translation, but substantially similar phraseology to Plaintiff May’s, while wholly maintaining the unique Patois phraseology, “We run things. Things don’t run we.”


Successful pop music performers, and the companies associated with them, should not settle contrived claims like this one. Doing so may seem financially expedient for the defendants, but contingency-fee plaintiff attorneys (typically lacking the resources and experience for full-blown litigation) seek precisely these quick payoffs, and such capitulation only encourages similarly motivated allegations against other financially successful entertainers.



Complaint (PDF)

Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (PDF)