Judge Sides With Swift Over 'Unoriginal' Lyrics

Two songwriters say she ripped off words for 'Shake It Off'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 14, 2018 12:41 PM CST
Judge Sides With Swift Over 'Unoriginal' Lyrics
Taylor Swift arrives at the iHeartRadio Music Awards in 2016.   (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

Taylor Swift counted another courtroom win Tuesday, though the reason revolved around lyrics deemed by a judge to be "unoriginal" and "uncreative." Songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler sued Swift for copyright infringement last year, arguing that Swift's 2014 hit "Shake It Off" borrowed heavily from their 2001 song "Playas Gon' Play," performed by girl group 3LW, per the Washington Post. That song goes, "Playas, they gonna play, and haters, they gonna hate," while "Shake It Off" goes, "Players gonna play, play, play, play, play, and haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate," reports Variety. In a rather amusing verdict, federal court Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald dismissed the case, declaring that the lyrics were too commonplace to warrant protection. Swift's legal team made a similar argument, pointing to songs before 2001 with the same theme.

Explaining that "American popular culture was heavily steeped in the concepts of players, haters, and player haters" by the time "Playas Gon' Play" was written, Fitzgerald said "the concept of actors acting in accordance with their essential nature is not at all creative; it is banal." He concluded "the lyrics at issue ... are too brief, unoriginal, and uncreative to warrant protection under the Copyright Act." The case remains open for amendment in case some other similarities between the songs are uncovered. But a lawyer says Hall and Butler will instead appeal the ruling on the basis that Fitzgerald made the "embarrassing" mistake of interpreting the originality of the lyrics himself, rather than seeking the opinion of a music expert, per the BBC. (A similar suit was previously dismissed.)

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