The 2021 Pop Convergence: A Virtual Pop Conference, April 22-25th
Artwork by Alex Nero; Design by The Art Dictator
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Charlotte Murtishaw

"Truth Hurts": Lizzo, copyright law, and reckoning with digital serfdom
In 2019, shortly after pop star/rapper Lizzo’s single “Truth Hurts” went viral, two industry producers filed a plagiarism suit focused on the song’s most memeable quip: “Just took a DNA test / I’m 100% that bitch”. Lizzo countered with a queen’s gambit; thwarting their lawsuit, she instead chose to share writing credits with the much lower-profile singer Mina Lioness, who had already claimed her own tweet was the source of the lyric. It was a satisfying subversion, and significant—not just for the music industry, but for the internet ecosystem, so often co-opted by mass media & corporations without any acknowledgement of the origin. While the lion’s share of tech criticism is directed at surveillance capitalism imperatives such as data mining, the internet is also ripe for profit because it generates an enormous amount of creative content without an expectation of reward.

The culture vultures of mainstream music have capitalized on (overwhelmingly Black) grassroots internet culture without compensation for years, relying on power and the anonymized, distributed, and amorphous nature of the internet to uphold their traditional claims to profit. While Lizzo's decision was probably more geared at ducking industry exploitation than an affirmation of netizens, this legal decision signals a new precedent with potential to recalibrate the lopsided balance of internet feudalism, just as the landscape increasingly shifts to accommodate influencer creatives on TikTok and other platforms.

Charlotte Murtishaw is from New Jersey. Her most recent writing, on Deborah Iyall of Romeo Void, appeared on Slumber Mag, and her last talk was about the Amish and the state, at the 3CT Antipolitics Conference. She is currently completing an MA in Public History and starting a documentary on the Flywheel Arts Collective in western Massachusetts.