27 June 2019

Can the real trendsetter please stand up: Lizzo vs the internet

Viral memes, trademarking and the jurisdictions of social media content.

Truth Hurts and Juice musician, Lizzo, is on a career high and along every trajectory, legalese will dip in and out of that succession. However, the star is in hot water as an ongoing feud with twitter user, @minaLioness has reignited, and this time, it’s personal. The Blast recently retrieved documents that states, the singer had filed trademarking over the lyric  from the hit 2017, single “Truth Hurts”, “100% That Bitch”. The track debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 chart, with over 13.6 million US streams. Lizzo’s LLC plans to brand the phrase via merchandising products including, but not exclusive to clothing and beyond. Sounds perfect right? wrong. 

The waters became muddy as the twitter user claimed that she, in fact, was the originator of the phrase and should be credited accordingly. On 25th February 2017, @MinaLioness tweeted: “I did a DNA test and found out I’m 100% that bitch.” By September of the same year, Truth Hurts was released featuring the lyric. The song later picked up speed by 2018 and quickly prompted  twitter user, @Khalnero, to tweet: “Truth Hurts @Lizzo and the truth is you’re a thief” in response to the original tweet. In a series of back and forths, the star was compelled to engage by refuting all claims of plagiarism, “ Truth Hurts was written in June FYI— someone made a meme on IG that said “I’m 100% that bitch” and we were inspired, I give that meme credit when I talk about making the song. I’ve never seen ur viral tweet but I’m glad it exists.” 

As a result of the release of the trademarking pursuit, @MinaLioness, has returned, commenting on the irony of both women having similar characteristics physically, in addition to a commonality in career goals (she, being a singer also).

As with most laws, the Twitter requirements to exacting a claim for copyright infringement remain arbitrary, however, one does have a claim on two grounds: The first being Twitter’s copyright and terms of service proceedings. You must have a signature and public account to connect your content to a live individual, also, there must exist a clear link to the original content published. The second could be regulated on the grounds of their fair use policy. Fair use constitutes four major guidelines: how the work is being used/ what is being copied/ how much of it/ the value of the work being infringed.

We’ve all been there: you sign up to the account, enter your details, then you’re  “forced” to click on the, ‘yes I’ve read and understand the terms and conditions‘, but really you skipped through the necessary pages and ignorantly accepted the terms. Here’s what it states regarding tweets as personal content;

    • ”You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. What’s yours is yours — you own your Content (and your photos and videos are part of the Content).
    • By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed). This license authorizes us to make your Content available to the rest of the world and to let others do the same.”

So, your options are as follows… You can consult a lawyer in defence of intellectual property as parameters do exist to facilitate the claim, however, as many can attest it is very difficult to, first, stop the infringer from infringing, and to monetise the backlog of profit made.

In the case of @peaches_monroee, viral Vine star, also known as Kayla Newman these options were an impossible feat.

One of the first new words in 5 years to be added to the dictionary. According to dictionary.com the term refers to “something perfectly executed” or “flawless” The word came to be after Newman posted a video of herself saying, “We in this b***h. Finna  get crunk. Eyebrows on fleek. Dafuq” in 2014. The phrase “on fleek” quickly gained viral status and soon spilled out on to the lips of the likes of Ellen Degeneres and was picked up by brands globally, without any recognition or credit to the individual responsible for coining it. In 2017, Newman told Teen Vogue that she’d be pursuing a cosmetic line under the moniker and went on to set up a GoFundMe to raise $100,000 to kickstart her company, but with only $13000 in donations that was short lived.

What goes amiss are the countless of talented, creative and often times disenfranchised users behind some of the most viral tweets, videos and trends that remain faceless, but importantly nameless. Further, the continued underscoring that will persist due to the privileges required to legally protect intellectual property. Lizzo, is not the problem, and who’s to really say that she really didn’t know of @MinaLioness’s original tweet. For many musicians, lyricism comes in many forms, and often it’s through collaboration. They are regulated by a great deal of contribution, adding and changing where necessary and perhaps it could  be the fault of the others credited on the single; perhaps it’s a coincidence. Ultimately, this practice will ensue as social media platforms remain public domain and property of the service, not your own. 

  • words Connie Mangumbu cover image

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