Taylor Swift Shakes Off Copyright Lawsuit
A lawsuit accusing singer Taylor Swift of stealing lyrics for her song “Shake It Off” was thrown out on Tuesday by a judge, who ruled the phrases in question were not sufficiently original to merit copyright protection.
Swift’s 2014 song reached No. 1 on the pop charts and marked her evolution from country to pop music.
Two songwriters said in a copyright infringement lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles last year that Swift’s song was based on the phrase “players, they gonna play, and haters, they gonna hate,” that they coined for a 2001 song “Playas Gon’ Play” by R&B girl group 3LW.
Swift’s lyrics from the chorus of “Shake It Off” are, “the players gonna play, play, play, play, play, and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.”
Attorneys for Swift asked U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald in January to dismiss the case.
U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald on Tuesday granted Swift’s motion to dismiss the suit but is giving plaintiffs Sean Hall and Nathan Butler one shot to amend their complaint by Feb. 26.
There’s no dispute over whether Hall and Butler owned their lyrics, or that Swift’s team had access to the song. There’s also no allegation of copying the underlying musical composition. So Fitzgerald’s analysis centers on whether there is substantial similarity between protectable lyrics. (Read it in full below.)
“The lynchpin of this entire case is thus whether or not the lyrics ‘Playas, they gonna play / And haters, they gonna hate’ are eligible for protection under the Copyright Act,” he writes. “[B]y 2001, American popular culture was heavily steeped in the concepts of players, haters, and player haters. … The concept of actors acting in accordance with their essential nature is not at all creative; it is banal.”
Fitzgerald seems unconvinced Hall and Butler will be able to change his mind in the future, but he’s allowing them to amend their complaint in case they intend to allege other similarities between the two works.