Taylor Swift to face trial in ‘Shake It Off’ copyright infringement lawsuit

Swift’s lawyers claim that the concept of players playing and haters hating is ‘public domain cliches’

Peony Hirwani
Friday 10 December 2021 05:06
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A US district judge has ruled that Taylor Swift will face jury trial over accusations that the singer’s hit song “Shake It Off” includes “substantial similarities” to one written by songwriters Sean hall and Nathan Butler.

In 2018, Hall and Butler alleged that the chorus to “Shake If Off”, which saw Swift sing that “players gonna play, play, play, play, play” and “haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate”, infringed on the copyright of a track they wrote for the defunct girl group 3LW in 2001.

“Playas Gon’ Play” by 3LW featured the lyrics “Playas, they gonna play, and haters, they gonna hate.”

At the time, Swift’s defence lawyers claimed that the concept of players playing and haters hating is “public domain cliches,” citing a number of tracks by artists including Fleetwood Mac and The Notorious BIG, who also used variations of the phrases.

However, on Thursday (9 December), Judge Michael W Fitzgerald denied the 31-year-old singer’s request to dismiss the case.

According to Billboard, the judge said: “Even though there are some noticeable differences between the works, there are also significant similarities in word usage and sequence/structure.”

“Although defendants’ experts strongly refute the implication that there are substantial similarities, the court is not inclined to overly credit their opinions here,” the judge said.

He added that Swift’s attorneys made “persuasive arguments” to have the case dismissed, but it was not enough.

The Independent has contacted Swift’s representatives for comment.

Despite a district judge dismissing Hall and Butler’s lawsuit in February 2018, the case was revived by a federal appeals court, which was determined a jury should decide a verdict as opposed to a sole individual.

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Citing a 1903 ruling by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, appeals court judges claimed it was “a dangerous undertaking for persons trained only to the law to constitute themselves final judges” of copyright claims, and that it should be the public who ultimately determine a verdict.

In 2019, a representative for Swift said: “These men are not the originators, or creators, of the common phrases ‘players’ or ‘haters’ or combinations of them. They did not invent these common phrases nor are they the first to use them in a song.”

They expressed their confidence that the “true writers of ‘Shake It Off’ would “prevail again”.

“[Hall and Butler’s] claim is not a crusade for all creatives, it is a crusade for Mr Hall’s bank account,” they said.

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